Mark Thompson, former CEO of “The New York Times” and BBC Director General, to take over CNN!

Mark Thompson

Dear  Commons Community,

Mark Thompson, former CEO of The New York Times between 2012 and 2020, and former director general of the BBC between 2004 and 2012, is to be appointed chief executive, chairman and editor-in-chief of CNN later today. As reported by The Telegraph.

David Zaslav, Warner Bros. Discovery chief executive, said: “There isn’t a more experienced, respected or capable executive in the news business today than Mark, and we are thrilled to have him join our team.”

Mr Thompson, 66, faces a challenge in rebuilding a newsroom that has been gutted by layoffs following cutbacks under owners Warner Bros. Discovery. CNN is attempting to right-size its $50 billion debt following last year’s merger between Warner Media and Discovery.

CNN is also struggling to adapt to the rise of streaming and has faced collapsing ratings and revenues.

Mr Thompson’s most pressing challenge will be deciding how the network portrays Donald Trump’s second tilt at the White House and his string of criminal charges.

CNN surged to its best ratings in 40 years during the Trump administration as the network went on the attack against the President’s chaotic tenure.

However, the US network, which has typically attracted a left-leaning, liberal audience, has endured a collapse in viewer numbers since the election of President Joe Biden.

In recent years Warner Bros. Discovery chief Mr Zaslav has sought to pull CNN back to the centre ground and away from its competitive stance towards the Republican Party.

In October 2022, Chris Licht was hired as CNN chief executive and began shifting the network towards the political centre. Mr Licht, a former executive producer of Stephen Colbert’s The Late Show, told staff that viewers had “lost trust in the news media” and criticised journalistic “group-think”.

Despite Mr Licht’s efforts, CNN’s audience figures and advertising revenues plummeted. By March, its viewer numbers were down 61pc compared to 2022, averaging just 473,000 in prime time, according to Nielsen.

While cable viewership has fallen across the board, CNN’s decline has been far steeper than that of rival Fox News.

In May, the network gambled by offering an interview to Mr Trump in an effort to boost ratings and attract conservative viewers.

However, the Republican Presidential favorite bulldozed through CNN’s attempt at a serious interview, repeating claims the US election was rigged and calling interviewer, Kaitlan Collins, a “nasty person”.

His remarks were met with cheers from the audience. The Atlantic reported in June that Mr Licht had told CNN staff ahead of the interview that the audience would be “extra Trumpy”.

The debate failed to recapture audiences and CNN fell to its worst week for daily viewers since 2015, with just 429,000 tuning in.

Mr Licht was forced out shortly after.

The newsletter Puck first reported Mr Thompson’s appointment. CNN also considered former BBC journalist James Harding for the top job, according to Semafor.

Mr Thompson, who started working at the BBC in 1979, took charge of the corporation in 2004. He notably suspended comedian Jonathan Ross, its highest paid presenter at the time, in 2006 following a controversial prank call show with Russell Brand.

He joined the New York Times in 2012 where he spearheaded a resurgence at the paper, turning the liberal city broadsheet into an international media brand with millions of subscribers.

Mr Thompson said: “I can’t wait to roll up my sleeves and get down to work with my new colleagues to build a successful future for CNN.”

We wish Mr. Thompson well!


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