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CNN, ABC Stir Rumors, No Bulletin

November 01, 2002|James Bates | Times Staff Writer

Don't waste time watching CNN's news crawl trying to spot a merger between the network and ABC News.

At least for now.

A flurry of rumors Thursday had the two organizations on the verge of a deal, apparently based on a CNN camera crew filming outside ABC's New York headquarters, or an ABC news crew at CNN's building, or both.

One rumor even had Ted Turner unveiling it tonight to CNN news anchor Aaron Brown on the network Turner first put on the air 22 years ago.

But Brown's producers said no guests were planned yet for "NewsNight With Aaron Brown," and Turner, AOL Time Warner Inc.'s vice chairman, was not scheduled to appear.

Talks between ABC parent Walt Disney Co. and CNN parent AOL Time Warner have been ongoing, with the potential cost savings of $200 million a year appealing to both sides.

But CNN and ABC News officials denied Thursday that a deal is near.

One internal e-mail from a high-ranking Turner Broadcasting System official suggested any deal was weeks, if not months, away.

Last week, Disney Chairman Michael Eisner, appearing on CNN's "Lou Dobbs Moneyline," endorsed a merger. But Eisner added that negotiations were complicated, with such details as operating control and financial splits yet to be worked out.

"I think it makes great sense," Eisner said. "That doesn't mean it's necessarily, absolutely going to happen."

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