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 AJR  The Beat

From AJR,   March 1999  issue

Talk, Talk, Talk   

A new D.C. public affairs cable network combines PBS programs and lots of talking heads reports.

By Lori Robertson
Lori Robertson (robertson.lori@gmail.com), a former AJR managing editor, is a senior contributing writer for the magazine.      

WETA , the flagship D.C. public television station, puts up the PBS resources, and media foundation the Freedom Forum coughs up the dough. The result? A new public affairs cable network for the Washington metropolitan area. Ed Turner , a former CNN executive and one of its founders, serves as president of Forum Network , which will begin broadcasting on area cable channels around June 1. The network will rebroadcast WETA shows such as ``Frontline" and ``The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer ," as well as PBS programs not on WETA's schedule. Turner says Forum Network will also air many original programs, including a nightly hour on media coverage and issues, a half-hour report on local news and a two-hour daily show on a range of news events. Analysis and talk format will be king. ``The talking head is damned, and I'm not sure why," Turner says. There are ``plenty of newscasts of different lengths and focus but not the TV equivalent of a smart op-ed page." While specific show hosts have yet to be determined, Turner, who would say only that funding was in the ``many millions," will have a healthy staff of about 75 headquartered at the Newseum, the Freedom Forum's interactive museum of news in Arlington, Virginia. Despite the many information outlets available, Turner does see a need for this one. ``I think there is a niche audience of intelligent people who care about the world around them and would like to hear public policy and issues of the day discussed in terms that mean something to them and in a civilized fashion," he says.