The Active Voice
10. The Scramble to Fill 24 Hours of Air Time: The End of the Twentieth Century 257
10. The Scramble to Fill 24 Hours of Air Time: The End of the Twentieth Century In 1980, the face of news presentation in the United States altered dramati- cally. That is when a burgeoning media mogul from Atlanta, Georgia, intro- duced the Cable News Network. CNN, rather than confining news to the early morning news broadcasts, multi-second updates during the day, and the evening news, promised to devote all day, every day to the nation’s and the world’s events. Initially, doing so was difficult. As one CNN executive said, “In the beginning, we had to scramble to fill 24 hours of air time.”1 Soon, though, CNN was providing the nation with a live, ninety-minute news summary every evening, and in January 1991, the cable network provided sounds and then images from Baghdad as the United States sent Patriot missiles into Iraq at the start of the Persian Gulf War. Doing so, one observer noted, changed American television news coverage by providing people with real-time access to a wealth of information. As a result, the relationship between newsmakers, news carriers, and the news audience was altered forever.2 CNN was not the only new network introduced to the American public in the early 1980s. On August 1, 1981, Music Television started its cable broadcast life. Playing music videos hosted and presented by VJ’s, MTV soon became the most profitable twenty-four-hour network, reaching 30.8 million households within five years of the first broadcast. Just as CNN became a trans- formative agent...
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