In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section CNN

  • Introduction
  • History
  • Institutional Characteristics
  • Journalistic Practices

Communication CNN
Amelia Arsenault
  • LAST REVIEWED: 11 September 2023
  • LAST MODIFIED: 31 March 2016
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756841-0044


Ted Turner launched Cable News Network (CNN), the world’s first twenty-four-hour news channel, in 1980. Broadcast network journalists and media pundits initially dismissed CNN as the “Chicken Noodle Network,” pointing to its poor production values and small audience share. However, the channel gradually built an audience-base with its twenty-four-hour coverage of such events as the space shuttle Challenger disaster in 1986, the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, and the Gulf War in 1991, providing the first major rival to ABC, CBS, and NBC, the three free-to-air broadcast networks that had dominated American television journalism since the advent of television. In the ensuing years, CNN, now a subsidiary of the global media conglomerate Time Warner (see the Oxford Bibliographies article Time Warner) has evolved into a globally available multi-channel news organization that includes CNN Headline News (launched in 1982), CNN International (launched in 1985), CNN Airport Network (launched in 1992), and CNN Español (launched in 1997). In addition to these channels, CNN’s parent company Turner Broadcasting (a subsidiary of Time Warner) has entered into several joint ventures bearing the CNN brand and featuring selected CNN programming, including a health-care news channel designed specifically for doctors office waiting rooms called Accent Health (launched in 1995), CNN+ (a Madrid-based franchise that operated 1999–2010), CNN Turk (launched in 1999), CNNj (Japan, launched in 2003), CNN-Indian Broadcasting Network (launched in 2005), and CNN Chile (launched in 2008). CNN also maintains a stable of digital delivery platforms including (launched in 1995),, a partnership with Asahi Interactive in Japan (launched in 2000), CNN International Mexico (launched in 1999), and CNN Arabic (launched in 2002). As the first and the largest privately owned global twenty-four -hour news channel, CNN has attracted the interest of communication scholars studying a broad array of phenomenon. This article outlines resources that range from examinations of CNN as a media institution, to explorations of the political and social implications of CNN content for politics and foreign policy, to studies that treat CNN as a proxy measure for larger transformations in the global media and communications environment, to explorations of CNN’s impact on journalism practices. Many of these sources use CNN as an exemplar of broader trends in media, political communication, and journalism rather than the main subject of analysis. Beginning in the 1990s, for example, political communication scholars began to refer to and debate the presence of the “CNN effect,” a shorthand term referring to the influence of twenty-four-hour news media on the conduct of foreign and domestic politics. On the domestic front, CNN is commonly compared with its main rivals, Fox News Network and MSNBC. While scholars concerned with international communication often examine CNN in contrast to other major twenty-four-hour private and publically owned global news broadcasters such as BBC (United Kingdom), Al-Jazeera English (Qatar), Deutche Welle (Germany), and France 24.

General Overviews

The CNN stable of networks has undergone a continual process of transformation engendered by transfers in ownership (e.g., Time Warner bought Turner and its CNN networks in 1996), the rise of new competitors (e.g., MSNBC and Fox News Channel), and broader changes in media consumption, delivery, and production mechanisms. There is no one centralized source for general overviews and background information about CNN and its affiliated networks. The CNN website and annual reports are embedded within the larger Time Warner stable of properties and only contain limited information. This section provides suggested sources for those seeking CNN performance data, audience data, and footage and transcripts. Scholars interested in general overviews pertaining to CNN ownership and evolution since 1996 should also consult the Oxford Bibliographies entry on Time Warner.

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