Shareholders Quiz Time Warner Chief On Political Ties And Gun Coverage

DAVID LIEBERMAN, Executive Editor
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CEO Jeff Bewkes must be glad that he only has to meet with ordinary shareholders once a year. Two dominated the Q&A session at today’s gathering with questions based on a view that Time Warner is engaged in campaigns to promote President Obama’s political fortunes, and gun control legislation. One found it suspicious that Michelle Obama awarded the Oscar for Best Picture, won by Warner Bros’ Argo. He noted that actor George Clooney — one of the film’s producers — had hosted fundraisers for the Obama campaign, and that the President and First Lady attended TNT’s annual Christmas In Washington special to raise money for the Children’s National Medical Center. “What a way to say ‘thank you’,” the shareholder said. Bewkes explained that the TNT show invites “sitting office holders that we have elected, whether wisely or not. They are not candidates.” As for the Oscar, “that’s done by the members of the Academy….That’s a whole forest if you wander into that.”

A second questioner said that Time Warner was “hypocritical” for allegedly deciding to reject some gun ads after last year’s Sandy Hook tragedy, and airing pro-gun control commentary from CNN’s Piers Morgan even though the company’s entertainment often depicts gun violence. The shareholder said that gun crimes are down, but people believe that they’re increasing. “Why would the company’s leaders make a political decision” based on “extreme bias,” he asked. Turns out he was confused: The policy to ban some gun ads was made by Time Warner Cable — a separate company since Time Warner spun it off in 2009. As for the possibility of bias on CNN, Bewkes says “that’s a very fair question. Any viewer and any shareholder should make us aware if you think there is bias on any issue.” Noting that CNN’s new chief Jeff Zucker was also at the meeting, Bewkes added that “we will be alert to that.”

As expected, all of the board candidates were overwhelmingly reelected and the executive compensation package was endorsed by holders of 92% of the votes.

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