Current TV President David Bohrman Sees Opportunity in Washington Dysfunction

5:15 PM PST 08/08/2011 by Marisa Guthrie

"Politics has stalemated and cable news has stalemated," says the former CNN exec.

When long-time CNN vp and Washington bureau chief David Bohrman left the network last Friday to move to Northern California, many thought he’d soon announce that he’d found a perch in Silicon Valley. Bohrman – a tech wonk and new media devotee – created CNN’s YouTube debates and pioneered the touch-screen “magic wall” that is now ubiquitous on cable news. 

But he’s not straying far from his news roots, landing at Current TV in the newly created position of president where he will be responsible for programming, production, broadcast operations, digital and technology.

For Bohrman, it is an opportunity to create a cable news brand from the ground up. For Current, it underscored the network’s determination to continue its insurgent campaign to challenge established rivals that began last June with the premiere of Keith Olbermann's Countdown.

Bohrman began his new job on Monday, when the stock market plummeted more than 6 percent in the wake of an unprecedented downgrade of the U.S. government’s credit rating. It was the capper to weeks of Congressional squabbling over the debt ceiling, a story that sent cable and broadcast news outlets into overdrive.

“Nobody wants to take advantage of bad times,” said Bohrman during a telephone interview on Monday. “But the dysfunction that we’ve seen in Washington is frankly also reflected in some of the dysfunction across the cable news channels. What we want to do is break out of that mold and have really intelligent discussions about what’s going on. And maybe we can even be a force to help move this along because politics has stalemated and cable news has stalemated.”

Bohrman’s immediate priorities include laying out a coverage plan for the 2012 presidential election and mounting companion shows for Countdown.

Describing Olbermann as the primetime “beachhead,” Bohrman says he’s looking at filling the 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. slots before and after Countdown, though he wouldn’t identify potential hosts.

Asked if he’s comfortable with the resources available to him at Current for the upcoming election season, Bohrman said: “We’ll have the resources to do what we have in mind to do We’re not going to do the mega-million production that we’ve come to see at the broadcast networks and the level that we may have operated at CNN financially. But there are ways to cover politics without breaking the bank. We don’t have no money, we just have to be careful about how we spend our money.”

Bohrman will split his time between Current’s San Francisco corporate headquarters and New York, where Countdown is produced. His appointment comes weeks after the exit of former CEO Mark Rosenthal, a longtime MTV executive before coming to Current. Joel Hyatt, co-founder of the network with Al Gore, said Rosenthal’s expertise did not lie in programming.

“All roads led to David Bohrman,” said Hyatt. “We are going all in as a political commentary and news analysis network. And to do that it became abundantly clear that we needed to find senior level expertise in television news and production that we didn’t have inside the company.”

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