Following the next of CNN's Brian Stelter's exit amid the cancellation of his Sunday show Reliable Sources, the network's chairman and CEO Chris Licht told staffers in an editorial meeting that more changes are coming to the network. Deadline reports that Licht reportedly told staffers: "There will be moves you may not agree with or understand. I want to acknowledge to everyone that this is a time of change. I know that it is unsettling."
He also admitted he was upset over some media reports about the company's plans, insisting they are mere assumptions for what's to come. Licht says only a handful of trusted executives are fully aware of plans. It doesn't make many staffers feel secure. Sources say both on-air and behind-the-scenes talent at the Warner Bros Discovery-owned cable newser are concerned about both the direction CNN is going, and nervous about their own jobs.
Since the Warner Bros. Discovery merger, there are ongoing layoffs and scaling back on spending. Several series have been axed as well company-wide. Licht told staffers at a recent townhall meeting that CNN will not have mandatory layoffs. He explained that they were in the examination phase.
But with The Reliable Sources end and the show's host exit, fear has set in. "No one is safe or secure right now," a CNN staffer told Deadline. Stetler had three years left on his contract, which is said to have been seven figures that he signed in 2021. His exit also triggered immediate speculation about the role of John Malone, one of the largest investors in Warner Bros. Discovery.
Malone previously told CNBC that he wanted CNN to "evolve back to the kind of journalism that it started with, and actually have journalists." Stelter wrote in his newsletter about Malone's potential influence on Jeff Zucker's exit this past winter, and wondered how it would impact his show. He wrote in the newsletter that Malone's comments had "stoked fears that Discovery might stifle CNN journalists and steer away from calling out indecency and injustice."
Staffers reportedly feel that Licht is the one doing the work of letting people go. "This isn't why Chris came to CNN, to fire people," a source noted. "He is caught between a rock and a hard place and getting squeezed."
Other sources say it's not true. Malone told The New York Times in an email that he had "nothing to do with" the cancellation of Reliable Sources. "I have known Brian since the days he was running TVNewser as a college student," he said of Stelter." I wish him all the best on his new venture."