July 11, 2006

Rather boasts “absolute control” over HDNet show

By Steve Gorman

PASADENA, California (Reuters) - Former CBS News anchor Dan
Rather said on Tuesday his new boss, billionaire investor Mark
Cuban, was giving him "total, absolute control" over the weekly
news program that Rather will host on cable television.

"This is a situation unprecedented in my career," the
veteran newsman told a group of TV critics gathered to hear him
discuss plans for "Dan Rather Reports," an hour-long show set
to debut on Cuban's high-definition channel HDNet in October.

The latest chapter in Rather's career comes about three
weeks after he left CBS in a bitter departure clouded by his
role in a reporting scandal over President George W. Bush's
military record.

Rather, 74, touted his new three-year deal with Cuban, the
firebrand entrepreneur and owner of professional basketball's
Dallas Mavericks, as a chance to escape the "corporatization of
news" and practice serious journalism that "really matters."

In a promotional video showcasing the vivid images that are
HDNet's signature feature, Rather said his new program would
consist of in-depth stories combining field reports, interviews
and investigative journalism.

He promised to bring viewers an "uncensored" program
"emphasizing accuracy, fairness and guts." Cuban has previously
described his concept for the show as "Rather unleashed."

Asked whether they were suggesting his former bosses at CBS
had reined him in, Rather said he meant to convey the freedom
that he was being given to run the show as he saw fit, not to
criticize CBS or other news organizations.

"I have total, absolute creative and editorial control on
this program," Rather said. "The difference here is the chain
of command begins and ends with me."

Rather also dismissed suggestions that he may carry too
much "baggage" from his days at CBS, and challenged
conservative critics who claim he possesses a liberal bias.

"Yes, I'm biased. I have a very strong bias toward
independent journalism," he said. But Rather said he and other
journalists often face detractors who are ready to "hang this
sign around your neck that says you're a bumbling Bolshevik or
something" and then "mount a sizable and effective smear
campaign on you."

His voice cracking with emotion, Rather invoked the public
battle his legendary CBS News predecessor, Edward R. Murrow,
fought against the communist-baiting U.S. Senator Joseph P.
McCarthy during the 1950s.

"When you face the furnace you have to take the heat," he
added. "But that goes with the territory. ... The news, real
news at its best, is a wake-up call, not a lullaby and I'm not
in the lullaby business."