CNN Eyes Pacts with Big Three Nets


New York -- Cable News Network has discussed providing
international-news coverage to all of the "Big Three" broadcast networks, and
not just CBS, a senior CNN executive said last week.

"There have been discussions for CNN to provide
worldwide news for other networks," the official said, referring to ABC and NBC.

Spokeswomen for both NBC and ABC confirmed that such talks
with CNN had taken place.

But the CNN source said discussions with the various
networks had been very "exploratory in nature, with many complications," and no
deal was imminent. The official added that CNN had never held such talks with Rupert
Murdoch's Fox broadcast network.

According to previous published reports, CBS -- which
announced earlier this month that it was reorganizing and laying off about 125 people in
its news division -- has discussed merging its news operations with CNN as a cost-saving

But it hadn't been disclosed previously that CNN had
also talked to ABC and NBC about providing them with news coverage.

One "complication" of a potential CNN partnership
with NBC, for example, would be the fact that the broadcaster owns news-oriented cable
networks CNBC and MSNBC, which compete with CNN.

During a press luncheon last Tuesday, CNN unveiled its
plans to do extensive live coverage -- co-anchored by CBS News veteran Walter Cronkite and
CNN's Miles O'Brien -- of Sen. John Glenn's (D-Ohio) return to space on the
Shuttle Discovery. Cronkite and O'Brien both attended the press session.

During that announcement, under questioning from reporters,
Cronkite noted that today, broadcast networks like his alma mater, CBS, "have already
ceded daily news coverage to 24-hour news channels, particularly CNN."

Cronkite said he sees the broadcast networks "coming
around" today to offering more interpretation of the news, adding, "There's
a lot to be done in serious news analysis."

Therefore, Cronkite said, he wouldn't necessarily
expect the Big Three to do extensive live coverage of Glenn's flight, as they did of
space flights in the 1960s.

"It never was easy to get time for live events,"
Cronkite said. "I wouldn't expect [the broadcast networks] to give up time for
this, like CNN."

Referring to his participation in CNN's coverage of
Glenn's mission, Cronkite said, "This is a great opportunity for me. CNN is the
only operation covering this in the fashion that we used to cover [space launches]."

CNN will kick off its coverage Oct. 26, three days before
the launch, with a preview of the mission featuring O'Brien from the Kennedy Space
Center in Florida. And on Oct. 27 at 10 p.m., CNN will air an hour-long documentary
pertaining to the event, The John Glenn Story: A Return to Space.

On launch day, Oct. 29, Cronkite will join O'Brien for
coverage of the 2 p.m. launch. The coverage will continue from Oct. 30 through Nov. 6,
anchored by O'Brien from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's
Mission Control in Houston, with Cronkite contributing. On Nov. 7, O'Brien and
Cronkite will cover the shuttle's return to Earth, also from the Kennedy Space

As CNN News Group CEO Tom Johnson pointed out, Cronkite
made a career out of following the U.S. space program, including epic events such as Alan
Shepard's first flight in 1961 and the 1969 Apollo 11 moon landing.

During the press sessions, Cronkite noted, as did Johnson,
that CBS' owned-and-operated TV stations will have access to CNN's coverage of
Glenn's shuttle mission because they are among the 550 affiliates of the 24-hour news
channel. In that way, TV stations get the benefit of coverage from CNN's network of
35 bureaus across the globe.

"It's gotten so that the [broadcast] networks
almost need CNN because they have cut back so much on their foreign bureaus,"
Cronkite said.

He warned that today, in many cases, the broadcast networks
are depending on stringers in foreign countries where they don't have bureaus --
journalists who may have hidden political biases.

Johnson recalled that during his nine-year tenure at CNN,
he has made numerous unsuccessful attempts to recruit Cronkite, whom he called "the
most trusted name in television news."

CNN's coverage of Glenn's mission is being
dedicated to the memory of John Holliman, the CNN correspondent who was killed in a car
accident Sept. 12. Holliman had been scheduled to co-anchor the coverage.

CNN isn't the only 24-hour news network doing special
coverage of Glenn's return to space: MSNBC will have anchor Brian Williams on
location for the launch, going live from noon to 2 p.m. The network will continue to do
updates throughout the course of the mission, carrying the shuttle's return live with
correspondent Jay Barbee in Houston.

And Fox News Channel has signed on former astronaut James
Lovell Jr. to co-host, with Jon Scott, its coverage of the shuttle launch and its return,
and to do updates during the nine-day mission.