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Beck's Headline News program features radio talk show host in lead role
[May 06, 2006]

Beck's Headline News program features radio talk show host in lead role

(Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The (KRT) Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge) May 6--Who is this guy Glenn Beck, and why is CNN Headline News making such a big bet on him?

Beck's new TV show debuts at 7 p.m. Monday on Headline News. The network, an offshoot of CNN, is in the midst of an ongoing effort to differentiate itself from its big brother, in part by hiring opinionated characters like Beck.

The network cast a wide net to find a new prime-time personality. Execs decided on Beck, a somewhat-well-known radio talk show host with a sense of humor and right-of-center political views.

Though Beck's Headline News program will feature a regular guest with the title "token liberal," Beck said politics won't be front and center. "People are so sick of politics, especially on cable news," he said.

Maybe. With politically tinged shows common on cable, offering something different might be a way for Beck to succeed.

Beck enters a crowded field in which many cable chat shows -- often loud, often conservative and usually built around a strong personality -- get solid ratings. Fox News Channel's blustery Bill O'Reilly leads the pack. In April, his audience easily tripled that of Paula Zahn on CNN.

Headline News, meanwhile, broke out of its prime-time ratings doldrums last year when it hired firebrand attorney Nancy Grace.

Some, however, have decried the tone of some shows. Media Matters, a liberal group, compiled Beck's radio statements and, last week, distributed several it found offensive. The organization's president and chief executive, David Brock, called Beck "an unapologetic preacher of hate" and criticized CNN for hiring him.

CNN executive Ken Jautz, who runs Headline News, insists the network didn't set out to find a host with any particular ideology. Now Jautz has a lot riding on the choice of Beck.

"We're thinking of the three p's of programming -- personality, passion and point of view," Jautz said. "Nancy and Glenn are totally similar when you think of those three p's."

Beck must take his style from radio to cable TV, where he'll appear prior to Grace. He's doing one hour each weekday for Headline News but, with reruns, his New York-based show will appear a total of 21 hours a week.

Beck -- who delayed the start of his program a couple of weeks to await the birth of a baby girl, Cheyenne Grace -- hopes he'll present a different sort of show. But he's loath to guess his program will break that much new ground.

"It's not like, oh my gosh, they've invented fire."

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