Why You Cannot Take a Vacation from CNN -- A Look at the Attempted Airport Monopoly by the Network

Southwest Airlines Flight 1380 sits on the tarmac at Philadelphia International Airport April 17, 2018 in Philadelphia, Pa. The aircraft had to make an emergency landing en route from LaGuardia to Dallas. (AP Photo/Corey Perrine)
Southwest Airlines (AP Photo/Corey Perrine)


Here is why it is so tough to escape CNN when traveling.

It has been widely covered that CNN is suffering a tremendous ratings decline. Well, maybe not by everyone. As I noted yesterday, Brian Stelter would rather deflect away from his own failing ratings by comparing them to another network that appears on a fraction of the cable television outlets across the country. So as he and others at the Apple Network are whistling past the graveyard viewers are simply turning away from the persistent bleating.


Except, as many find out, it is not always easy to do. While not tuning in to a program at home is an easy enough task for most (except for say, Carlos Maza) what is more difficult is when going out in public being compelled to witness the channel.

More people are giving voice to questions about why they are subjected to the news feed from CNN in airport terminals, for example. As anyone has flown in recent years can attest the news channel is almost inescapable as you walk the Departure and Arrival sectors of most airports. It is a uniform fixture in most of the common areas, and this is by design. CNN has intentionally made itself the go-to news option in airports and many business centers.

To say that the general public is tiring of the constant barrage of Presidential negativity is not just a partisan theory; it is a studied fact. The Harvard Kennedy School Shorenstein Center on Media has analyzed the press coverage after President Trump took office, and it is far more than a biased slant taking place — it is an obsession. While the prior administrations had varying degrees of negative-to-positive coverage around a 3-2 ratio, Trump has received more than three times the amount of media reports and 80% of those have been negative.

The shrieking from the news nets, and especially CNN, has become more of a drone, and more people are growing weary of the chatter.

But CNN has fixed the system so eluding its coverage is not always automatic. In January it was announced that Hartsfield-Jackson Airport had secured a brand new contract with CNN, to be the provider of content on the televisions in the concourse and common areas of the airport for the next 5 years. This is more than an in-kind agreement with the airport in the network’s home city. CNN has similar agreements with nearly 60 other airports.


For this Atlanta contract CNN is paying $225,000 annually, and the network has other arrangements at other locations. (Miami International receives $150,000 annually, for instance, in its CNN contract.) Many corporate business centers and campuses have similar deals, with CNN either paying for exclusive broadcast, or providing the hardware media — the televisions, cabling, speakers, etc. — for the rights.

The feed to airports is tailored to that marketplace. Rather than playing the live cable broadcast what travelers are subjected is a modified version, dubbed CNN Airport Network. The includes more segments on cultural content, weather, and even some sports. Deals may also include the airports being granted advertising slots during the broadcasts. This segregated feed ensures, for one thing, that stories such as negative airline coverage are not shown. (Flyers were spared Don Lemon’s perpetual coverage of the missing Malaysian “Zombie” airplane, for example.)

More than being available, CNN practically demands it be seen in these common areas. With the public growing increasingly divided, and the network shown to be almost one-sided in its coverage, more people desire to change the channel, or at least mute the broadcast. Except they cannot. As part of these contracts the network controls the feed; the channels cannot be altered, and the volume cannot be muted. The network even has sound-adjusting settings so that the volume will rise during louder portions of the day.


This attempt at a traveler monopoly only helps to underscore how poorly the network is performing. With a near blanket saturation of cable television providers (CNN is included in well over 90% of all cable packages) combined with the widespread insistence upon being seen in most airports and business centers, the fact that the network is seeing its ratings evaporate like uncapped moonshine at high noon means the level of failure is that much greater.


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