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James Hibberd

Morning News

July 12, 2006 7:26 PM

Ted Koppel was a whole lot of serious newsman for 8 a.m., especially after two network parties the night before. But critics were prodded awake at the Discovery Networks session by the former “Nightline” host’s appearance via satellite on large screens in support of his new investigative series, “Koppel on Discovery.” Live from Guantanmo Bay, he peered down at us like a journalistic idol. Even his hair looked credible; his usual suspiciously firm helmet blown about by high winds.

With the Dan Rather/Mark Cuban panel the day before, critics were also charged by an emerging theme — frustrated veteran newsman finding journalistic liberation on cable. Not surprisingly, the first couple questions begins with variations on “Yesterday, Dan Rather said…”

The first of which queries if such cable outlets such as Discovery and Cuban’s HDNet had a large enough viewership to make their efforts worthwhile.

“In terms of the kinds of audience we can expect for any one program any one time, the number will be different,” Kopple said. “But it’s all but impossible to get prime time on broadcast for a serious foreign policy program. At Discovery, you have a network that does precisely the kind of programming we want to do … you have the possibility a program shown two, three, four times, and shown on most Discovery outlets around the world.”

Koppel added that CBS of “did not act with heroism” in ousting Rather over a discredited story about President Bush’s military service.  “Should that have cost him his career? I don’t think so.”

When asked if representing Discovery feels different than ABC, Kopple said it was different — “and not in any way that I had anticipated.”

“When driving through the Middle East, I was accustomed to saying ‘ABC News,’ and they would say, ‘Who?’ When I say ‘Discovery,’ people light up … the good news is there’s a world of good will out there for the Discovery Networks.”

Discovery Networks President Billy Campbell added that the new show will be accompanied by an online interview series, tentatively titled “Conversations with Ted.”


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