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Here's Why Those Airport TVs Are Always Playing CNN... And Why You Can't Even Change the Volume

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For travelers looking to get away from it all, it might seem there’s no getting away from CNN.

Even as the once-proud “news” network watches as its television ratings drop and its public credibility dies away, passengers in America’s airports have long known that just about anywhere they go, CNN is going to be on a TV screen nearby until they get out of the airport atmosphere and into the real world again.

But “Big Brother”-level ubiquity comes at a price – to the traveling public’s mental health and to CNN’s bottom line.

The first 24-hour cable news network set the standard in the long-ago, pre-internet day for news coverage that left most Americans amazed. Anyone who remembers the first Gulf War probably remembers CNN’s coverage from Baghdad in the war’s early days.

(Some of the media coverage of the media was positively giddy then, as a People magazine report from the time attests.)

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It wasn’t until much later that the American people found out CNN had paid for that kind of access by deliberately hiding the barbarity of the Saddam Hussein regime.

By the time then-network executive Eason Jordan revealed that distasteful news in a New York Times commentary in 2003, CNN was already getting a reputation for liberal leanings (as the “Clinton News Network”) but was practically an institution in American life.

With the rise of competitors over the decades, primarily Fox News, CNN’s star has faded to the point where during President Donald Trump’s time in office, it’s almost a parody of itself – propagandizing on behalf of the Democratic Party with all the zeal it couldn’t muster to report on the actual reality of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.

And the American viewing public knows it. As commentator Brian Slager wrote Monday at The Federalist, CNN’s ratings have been dropping even as its relentlessly antagonistic coverage of the Trump White House has remained.

Do you ignore CNN when it's on in public places?

“Once the industry standard, CNN has fallen well behind the other major cable news channels — Fox News and MSNBC — for years,” Slager wrote. “And 2019 has gone from bad to brutal for the network….

“To see just how bad—and how isolated—the CNN performance has been, one need only look back to 2018. In year-over-year rating comparisons of prime-time performance, you can see the massive hit CNN has taken, while its competitors fare much better. All three networks are down, but one plunged.

“Looking at the first week of June, both Fox News and MSNBC saw a dip of 4 percent. CNN dropped 33 percent. One-third of its audience fled! And in the core demographic of 25- to 54-year-olds it was far worse, as CNN lost more than half of those viewers, at  -55 percent.”

So, why is it that a network that has proven itself to be a literal turn-off for millions of Americans is still the network millions of Americans are forcibly exposed to in the nation’s airports? If you guessed it was money, you’re probably too smart to spend time watching CNN.

“CNN has deals with nearly 60 airports to be the exclusive broadcast, paying an annual premium and even supplying the televisions for the right. The network controls these TV sets, meaning workers cannot change the channels nor even lower the volume,” Slager wrote.

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A Fox News report from March 2018 went into a little more detail.

Not only does CNN pay the airports to leave the network on, it often provides the televisions and infrastructure for airports to have TVs everywhere in the first place.

Its package is called CNN Airport, and it is slightly different from the normal CNN news feed because it includes sports and weather segments, Fox reported. (In addition to leaving out or downplaying news about problems with airline travel.)

“Long-term contracts typically give CNN the ability to curate content seen by travelers whether they like it or not,” Fox reported. “The eight-year contract that was signed in 2016 promises Miami International Airport ‘a maximum annual guarantee of $150,000’ that may be adjusted annually to ensure the deal is on par with similar airports.”

Now, the world has changed a great deal since CNN first became part of the fabric of American society. Television choices abound. No longer are travelers dependent on an airport bar or television to provide entertainment during long waits. Almost every adult in any given airport is carrying a phone that will provide more than CNN could ever imagine

But still, CNN is droning at departure gates, baggage carousels and, of course, airport watering holes, filling the atmosphere with poisonous, liberal, anti-White House dribble that could get it arrested if it were a human in the TSA line.

(Come to think of it, the network treated Saddam at his worst with more respect.)

And the Trump presidency has upended the liberal chokehold on the nation’s discourse.

Still, even when you have a phone handy, being aware of your surroundings in an airport almost always means being aware of CNN to some degree or another.

And that just might start to nag at your sanity.

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Joe has spent more than 30 years as a reporter, copy editor and metro desk editor in newsrooms in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Florida. He's been with Liftable Media since 2015.
Joe has spent more than 30 years as a reporter, copy editor and metro editor in newsrooms in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Florida. He's been with Liftable Media since 2015. Largely a product of Catholic schools, who discovered Ayn Rand in college, Joe is a lifelong newspaperman who learned enough about the trade to be skeptical of every word ever written. He was also lucky enough to have a job that didn't need a printing press to do it.
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