The Rise of Cable News
February 9, 2011
If you have a huge ego and also a fair sense of humor, and if you can appear to be dispassionate on certain issues, then you can take your place alongside the giants of the broadcasting industry.
Many years ago, I appeared as a guest on a syndicated television program called, “Inside Edition.” The host was a giant of a man by the name of Bill O’Reilly. He was not opinionated and he seemed to just blend in with the scenery. This is not said to be pejorative. Bill was a capable program host who never indicated on that occasion that one day he would become, in many respects, the biggest fish in an enormous pond.
Back then, there was no Fox News Network. The only harbinger of what might be the future of cable television was a very bland, innocuous CNN. Cable News Network as founded by Ted Turner. The idea back then was to make available a 24-hour news network which could be viewed not only in the United States, but in every country in the world. People in their hotel room in Paris or Rome or London, for example, could avail themselves of the latest news no matter in what time zone.
That was it! It sounds so simple, but the technology providing this worldwide news service was the secret to the success of this new innovation. In the early 80s, we thought very little about the possibilities of cable television even though CNN had its start in 1980.Very few people expressed to me their belief that networks still unborn would turn the industry upside down and inside out.
So there I was being interviewed by Bill O’Reilly in a cavernous studio on New York’s East Side. And there was Bill explaining to his viewers who I was and how I had achieved acclaim in the largest radio market in the world. He sounded almost shocked as he told the audience what some of my nostrums were and how I had shaken up liberal New York and the East Coast with my conservative views.
To be sure, I sat there in my chair enjoying the spotlight and the fact that I was on television. Truth be told, I was so successful in radio and so ensconced in the medium, I didn’t seem to know what to do to expand my career by becoming a television person. I wanted television and it was a television program I was doing in Los Angeles when Peter Straus brought me to New York to be on WMCA.
As I look back on my life and the decisions I have made along the way, I feel like a character in the Lone Ranger series. At the end of each week’s episode, after the Lone Ranger has helped an honest group of citizens and saved them from possible death and destruction, he did not wait for the people to thank him. Instead, he quietly mounted his horse, Silver, and accompanied by his faithful companion, Tonto, rode off into the sunset or sunrise as the case may be.
And at that point the bewildered but grateful pioneers would ask, “Who was that masked man?” I look back on my life and ask the same identical question. You see, we are all strangers to ourselves. Some of us never really find ourselves, but we keep looking until the end. So a guy like Bill O’Reilly doesn’t have to search. He knows who is and loves every minute of it.
God sheds his grace on some people more than others. Who knows where to stand in the line waiting for the gift? Bill, would you tell the rest of us? I wrote this today to try to explain to myself why things are the way they are. Guess what? No one really knows.
If any of this verbal meandering made any sense to you, please let me know by sending an e-mail to BobGrantOnline.com . . . straight ahead!