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CBS News, CNN Renew Talks on Sharing Resources

April 26, 2001|ELIZABETH JENSEN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

NEW YORK — They've been down this path before with no success, but CBS News and CNN are again talking about possible ways to share resources.

With new management at CNN looking to add star power to its no-nonsense lineup, CBS' need for 24-hour exposure for its news gathering and continual budget pressures at both organizations, some kind of combination would make theoretical sense.

The two already share CNN's international correspondent, Christiane Amanpour, who does several reports a year for the CBS newsmagazine "60 Minutes."

A spokeswoman for CBS News declined to comment on reports of renewed talks, which first surfaced in TV Guide. A Turner spokesman said "CNN's worldwide news gathering capabilities have made us a natural potential partner for other news organizations. . . . This kind of speculation is nothing new."

A combination of the two organizations could take many forms, from sharing reporters to sharing bureaus or even an outright merger of all news gathering functions, which would give CBS a way to compete with NBC News and its 24-hour MSNBC.

But it's unclear whether any but the simplest of arrangements would be able to overcome the institutional obstacles that made the talks break down before. In particular, both sides have been adamant about not relinquishing any control over the combined organization.

A possible combination was given renewed life with the arrival of new management at CNN parent Turner Broadcasting, itself now part of AOL Time Warner. AOL, for one, already has a relationship with CBS News, which is featured prominently on the online service.

New Turner Broadcasting head Jamie Kellner has declared a need for more high-profile talent at CNN, which has seen its ratings shrink in the face of stiff competition from Fox News Channel and MSNBC. After a round of layoffs earlier this year that reduced its staff by nearly 10%, CNN has recently started hiring again. The network rehired Lou Dobbs to anchor "Moneyline," and brought in international correspondent Sheila MacVicar after she left ABC News as part of that organization's own belt-tightening. This week former "NYPD Blue" actress Andrea Thompson was hired as a CNN Headline News anchor.

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