Discovery Networks kicked off the day with another veteran newsman, Ted Koppel, who was live via satellite from Guantanamo Bay, where he’s filming the first of several annual specials he and producing partner Tom Bettag will do for Discovery.
Before any questions were asked, Koppel, his hair blowing in the wind, asked that his cameraman pull back for a second to reveal that, although it looked like he was all alone, he was actually standing under a white tarp and surrounded by a massive crew – uniformed representatives from the Army and Navy, satellite technicians, a camera crew, producers and others. Koppel got chuckles from saying that even critics who are familiar with the TV industry "have to marvel at how much combined effort" it takes just so he can "stand there and answer questions" from them.
Koppel says he hopes to do 6 to 7 specials a year – next up will be one on the Middle East. He’ll travel to Iran this fall and pull together footage he’s already shot in Southern Lebanon and the Persian Gulf.
Koppel also vehemently defended his old friend Dan Rather regarding Rather’s exit from CBS, saying he did not at all approve of CBS’ treatment of its former anchor. "Clearly a mistake was made on the broadcast he did and it took him a while to acknowledge that because Dan is very, very loyal to the people that work with him and for him. Should that have cost him his career at CBS? I don’t think so. I wish he was still on CBS."
He went on to say that he was at Discovery "truly by choice" and that nobody had forced him out of ABC, and then extolled the virtues of cable TV’s dual revenue stream and the license fees that relieve some of the pressure to attract a young audience. He also said working for Discovery has helped him gain goodwill from people around the world, who get the cable channel but have never seen ABC.
By Anne Becker