New Current TV president David Bohrman appeared on CNN’s Reliable Sources on Sunday to explain the network’s strategy going forward.
Kurtz: It’s no secret that current TV has had trouble getting traction in the ratings, at least until Olbermann was hired, well he’s not putting up huge numbers either. How are you going to change that?
Bohrman: Well I—the fir—Current just I think they had their fifth anniversary and they went through two or three identity crises over what they were as a network. It began as a user-generated content network, and in the last couple years it’s sort of been like a NatGeo Frontline documentary network. Al Gore and Joel Hyatt got the brilliant idea to go and try to hire Keith, they did, and discovered lightning. I mean the program did great, is being talked about and all of the sudden they realized that that was gonna be the destiny of what the network is.
Kurtz: But with Olbermann not only as the host of Countdown but the Chief News Officer of Current, is this going to be an all-liberal network?
Bohrman: I think it will provide a fair amount of time for liberal viewpoints to be made. It’s not going to be exclusively liberal viewpoints and we’re going to try not to hide behind the word “progressive” that you know I think so many—so many liberals do and then—and then the people on the right, the conservative world, scoff at. I think there’s a lot of time on radio, and television, and on the web that actually is conservative points of view. There’s not a lot of time for the left.
Kurtz: Oh so this is interesting. You see this as a balance to conservatives particularly on talk radio, whereas conservatives often talk about the media as being so much tilted to the left that—that they need an outlet like Fox News.
Bohrman: Well, in—in—in an odd way, I think that what Roger Ailes started to do 15 years ago when he built Fox News, he—he—he wanted to barge into a media environment he saw as liberal, um and, and remember, you talked about : ”We report, you decide.” Well, I think they—Fox is now the mainstream. Fox tells a lot of people what to think, and—and I think that we want to, on one level to be a counterpart to that— a counterpoint to that um, and be able to provide for intelligent, long, sometimes, discussion of really important issues. The debt, for instance in the last couple of weeks—it was dysfunctional in Washington and it was dysfunctional on cable news.
Kurtz: Let me ask you about the elephant in the room. A lot of people have asked me well does this—your taking this job suggest that you were a closet liberal during your years here at CNN?
Bohrman: Well, you know it’s—it’s—it’s I do, I do feel like I crossed a line and have been somewhat, and outed myself, alright. Overtly, I need to say that. I will tell you that—that I—
Kurtz: Just to be clear, you outed yourself as somebody whose views, uh, lean to the left?
Bohrman: Yes, yes and that’s what this network is going to be. But I will tell you, in the hundreds, if not thousands of hours of programming that I produced here at CNN and at NBC and at ABC with Wolf Blitzer and John King and all of the others, I don’t think any of us ever knew our politics. Wolf and I did everything in the ’08 election—I have no idea how Wolf felt. I don’t think he had any idea of my politics. I produced at NBC News the funeral for Richard Nixon, I produced here at CNN the funeral for Ronald Reagan. They were the most moving, respectful programs that you could find anywhere.
Kurtz: So you’re saying you set aside your views to do your job?
Bohrman: I completely set aside my views to do my job, and I think I did that really successfully. I also think that the left needs to recapture patriotism, and not let the right own the flag and own patriotism. You know, I still—you still get a lump in your throat when you walk in the White House or in the Oval Office and are with the President of the United States, regardless of whoever that person is.
Bohrman may be gunning for Fox but he has some major hurdles in front of him just trying to get past CNN and MSNBC, which more closely resembles Current TV in its political leanings. With Olbermann’s show tailing off in the ratings, Bohrman will be hard pressed to build a lineup of shows around him that will attract a large enough audience to even come close to CNN, much less MSNBC. There is also the challenge of carriage with Current available in just 58 million homes compared to 95 million for MSNBC and 100 million for CNN. Plus, there is no guarantee that if Current managed to expand its reach it would expand its audience enough to compete with the other cable news networks.
If Bohrman was totally honest he would have admitted that he faces a stiff uphill climb at Current. But based on the fact that he actually told Kurtz with a straight face that he didn’t know what Wolf Blitzer’s or John King’s political leanings were, and vice versa, strains his credibility to say the least.
As far as being a “counterpoint” to Fox, until Current has more programming, an audience and ratings, they’ll just be speaking to the camera.
Let’s just say that Roger Ailes isn’t losing any sleep.
And most revealing of all was Bohrman’s comments about how respectful his productions were of the funerals of Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan (He produced their funerals?). It’s one thing to be respectful when someone is being buried, it’s another thing, and a better test of fairness, to be respectful during their lifetime.