Calif. Service Looks Ahead Despite Execs' Deaths


The California News Service is still trying to nail down financing to launch, forging ahead despite the deaths of two of its key executives, officials said last week.

Its president, Cable News Network veteran Ed Turner, died of liver cancer late last month. For more than a year, the 66-year-old Turner had spearheaded the effort to raise $29 million to roll out the statewide network. In mid-December one of CNS's other key executives, Ken Chamberlain, died of a massive heart attack while sitting at a desk in his home.

Larry Register had been brought in to succeed Chamberlain as CEO and chairman of CNS. And now Steve Cassidy, who had been doing work for the network while Turner was ill, will take over Turner's role.

"There will never be a replacement for Ed Turner; he was one of a kind," Register said. "It's been a tragic turn of events."

Chamberlain, Register, Cassidy and Ted Kavanau, another CNS executive, were all part of the team that founded CNN Headline News. Register and Cassidy also spent many years working with Turner at CNN.

To secure financing, the proposed California channel has retained Oxford Financial Group Ltd., which is now talking to a potential investor. That company is doing due diligence, according to Register.

The group should know by mid-April if the investor will finance CNS. Should that investor pass, Register said, "It would certainly be a severe blow."

In mid-March, CNS chief financial officer Bill Fleming told a Sacramento city official the all-news channel was still planning to launch and intended to lease a studio and office space at the Cal Image Associates facility in Rancho Cordova, Calif., for a year to 18 months.

In addition, Fleming said the channel also wanted to rent space for a small studio in Sacramento, near the capital building, as well for a bureau. Plans call for the service to be headquartered in that city.

Turner — who was always quick to note that he was no relation to CNN founder Ted Turner — died March 30 at George Washington University Hospital in Washington, D.C. Turner was a veteran TV newsman when he joined CNN in 1979, prior to its launch, and helped earn the service journalistic respectability.

In late 1998, Turner was named president of a regional cable network that was trying to start up in the Washington, D.C., area. That proposed public-affairs network, The Forum Network, was a partnership between media foundation The Freedom Forum and WETA, the capital's public TV station.

Turner left the venture in fall 1999. It was shelved later that year, when it couldn't secure carriage from Comcast Corp.

Most recently, Turner was also working on a book about CNN with former CNN correspondent Peter Arnett.