24-Hour News: Hour One - 6/1/1980

History |


News outlets today have soared to great heights, as there are literally hundreds of vessels that provide us news, thanks to the internet. But there is one vessel of news that remains a staple of the United States, and today it celebrates its 36th birthday. It was on this day, June 1, 1980, that the CNN (Cable News Network) made its debut. What was so groundbreaking about CNN, it was the world’s first 24-hour television news network. At 6 p.m. EST it aired its first broadcast, from its headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia, with a lead story on the attempted assassination of civil rights leader Vernon Jordan. And from there, CNN went on to give a facelift to the news as we knew it.

When CNN first launched, TV news was controlled by three major broadcast networks- CBS, ABC, and NBC- with their 30 minute nightly watered-down broadcasts. Originally CNN was available in less than two million homes in the United States, but today the network is viewed in more than 89 million U.S. American households and over 160 million international homes. The man behind the news, Robert “Ted” Turner, was also known as the “Mouth of the South.” Turner being a gaudy and point-blank kind of businessman. Born on November 19, 1938, in Cincinnati, Ohio, he moved as a child with his family to Georgia, and it was there that his father ran a profitable billboard advertising company. But in 1963, Turner’s father committed suicide leaving him the business which he took over and expanded.

In 1970, Turner began a new venture, buying a failed TV station in Atlanta which played old movies and network reruns. Within a few years, Turner changed it into a “superstation”, his coined phrase, by beaming the station through a satellite that propelled the station into homes across the country. After his first “superstation” success, Turner bought the Atlanta Hawks basketball team and Atlanta Braves baseball team and aired their games on his network, TBS (Turner Broadcasting System). Turner then gained fame internationally, when he sailed his yacht in the renowned America’s Cup race in 1977. 

During its initial years of functioning, CNN was not as successful as Turner’s other ventures. But he continued to invest in building up the network’s worldwide news bureaus and bought Satellite News Channel in 1983, partly owned by ABC, and by doing so he eliminated the main competitors of CNN. Eventually, CNN became famous for covering live events globally, right as they happened. By doing so, the network often beat major networks to the scene. The pivotal coverage of the Persian Gulf War in 1991, gained CNN substantial traction. Amid the 1990s, the network’s audience grew along with the increasing popularity of cable television. In 1996, Turner decided to merge CNN with Time Warner. And four years later, in 2000, Time Warner merged with America Online. As of today, Turner is a peace activist and environmentalist. He also dabbles in philanthropy, one of his noted gifts was $1 billion to the United Nations in 1997.

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