If you were around on June 1, 1980, you may remember the hype that surrounded the birth of CNN. Many people thought that the whole idea was silly. How could any station possibly talk about news 24 hours a day? And why would anyone want to watch news 24 hours a day?
And yet, CNN did succeed. In fact, it has become one of the most respected news organizations in the United States, and one of the most-watched cable channels. CNN's companion Web site, started in 1995, is ranked as one of the top 100 Web sites in the world.
The CNN story starts with a man named Ted Turner. In 1970, at the age of 32, he purchased a small TV station in Atlanta. It was a UHF broadcast station. In that era, long before the spread of cable TV as we know it today, there were three networks, usually at channels like 2, 5 and 7. Anything up in the teens or higher was, by definition, a small station. The vast majority of people watched the big three.
This UHF station turned into WTBS, which turned into a major cable channel. Shortly after the creation of WTBS, CNN was born. This was very early in the growth of national cable systems. Keep in mind that MTV did not start broadcasting until August 1981, and HBO did not go to a 24-hour format until the beginning of 1982.
So how did CNN go on to become such a major player? It could be said that the Gulf War in 1991 propelled CNN to greatness. When the United States started its air attack, CNN's reporters (Peter Arnett, John Holliman and Bernard Shaw) were able to use satellite phones to broadcast live during the attack.
CNN also became the center of a war of words just four days later. The United States bombed a plant, claiming that it produced biological weapons. The Iraqis claimed it was producing baby formula. Peter Arnett reported:
For more information on CNN's debut and related topics, check out these links: