Cable news channels are a mainstay of cable television. In fact, one of the first popular commercially available news channels was the Cable News Network – better known today as CNN – which was launched in 1980. This was before other cable stalwarts like MTV and Cinemax. Since then, cable news has become popular, and the influence of the news channels is far-reaching.
CNN and HLN
It was the 1991 Persian Gulf War and CNN’s in-the-moment, on-the-ground coverage by reporters like John Holliman, Peter Arnett and Bernard Shaw that made CNN a must-see cable channel and increased its influence in the news business. Viewers began accepting cable news as a legitimate source of news and information. The network also developed popular evening news-themed shows like Larry King Live and Crossfire. Today, the news channel boasts some of the top names in television journalism: Anderson Cooper, Wolf Blitzer and Campbell Brown. CNN’s spinoff network, HLN, began as a straight news update channel, featuring updates of the day’s headlines, but now presents more news and infotainment programming.
FOX News Channel
The highest-rated news channel since it was launched in 1996, the Fox News Channel hosts the most-watched cable news program, The O’Reilly Factor. Founded by News Corporation, the global media company owned by Rupert Murdoch, Fox News is run by Roger Ailes, a former consultant to presidents Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and George H. W. Bush. It features well-known personalities like Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity and Geraldo Rivera. The network is often criticized for what some believe is a conservative bias, but the network dismisses these charges pointing to its well-known motto, “Fair and Balanced.”
If Fox News is the conservative-leaning news channel, then MSNBC is the liberal-leaning channel, a suggestion the network embraces. Promoting itself with the tag line, “Lean Forward,” MSNBC presents the day’s news through a progressive lens. Originally founded as a straight news channel in 1996, MSNBC wallowed in low ratings until commentators like Chris Matthews, Rachel Maddow and the Reverend Al Sharpton brought their liberal viewpoints to the network. Currently, the network trails only Fox News in ratings.
Not quite a news channel by definition, but similar in nature to both Fox News and MSNBC is Current TV. Founded by former vice-president Al Gore and business executive Joel Hyatt, Current began as a “public square” for home video enthusiasts, but has evolved into a home for cutting edge long-form news reporting and nightly opinion-based news programming. Operating in a slightly less restrictive atmosphere, Current TV hosts like Eliot Spitzer, Joy Behar, and the The Young Turks’ Cenk Uygur can explore more free-wheeling and controversial content.
News Channel Variations
Unlike the general news channels, several networks avoid general news and focus only on global business news. They present live coverage of the financial markets and keep viewers up-to-date on all of the business headlines. Founded in 1989, CNBC is the best-known and farthest-reaching of the business news channels. Owned and operated by Bloomberg L.P., the company that publishes BusinessWeek magazine, Bloomberg Television broadcasts from New York City, London and Hong Kong and has more than 145 news bureaus around the world. A spin-off of Fox News, the Fox Business Network began broadcasting in 2007. One popular news channel covers only sports. Since 1996, ESPNews has aired news and commentary covering all aspects of the sports world.