The 1980s


In a decade of change and consolidation, no one better epitomized the 1980's than media mogul than Rupert Murdoch. Murdoch's Fox Television Network was the first new network since the 1950s to compete with the "Big Three."

In the 1980s, viewers had more media options. Thanks to deregulation, more channels were available and content was less restricted. There was a boom in the magazine industry, as magazine publishers streamlined their content for specific audiences. Many newspapers failed as production costs soared and consolidation ran amok.

The 1980s saw the rise of women in the media, including Oprah Winfrey, Connie Chung and Barbara Walters. Likewise, African-American personalities were garnering power in various media. Cable news and MTV came to fruition, both catching the attention of the nation. In 1981, the U.S. launched the space shuttle Discovery. Young and old people alike mourned the death of John Lennon and celebrated the fall of the Berlin Wall. The term "Reaganomics" was coined to describe Ronald Reagan's pro-business platform.


Rupert Murdoch

Rupert Murdoch

Murdoch became one of the world's media giants during the global media revolution of the 1980s. Building on successes in his native Australia and in England, Murdoch merged 20th Century Fox Film Corporation with several independent television stations to form the Fox Television Network in 1985. Fox was the first nationwide television network in the United States to be created since the 1950s.

Ted Turner

Ted Turner

One of the premier media moguls of the 1990's, Ted Turner's CNN revolutionized television news with its non-stop coverage of the Gulf War and its 24-hour news cycle. Turner also helped develop several other cable channels, including his own Turner Network Television (TNT), TBS, and the Cartoon Network. Turner also played a large part in the massive Time-Warner-AOL merger.

Tina Brown

Tina Brown

Brown was the editor of Vanity Fair, one of the most talked about and controversial magazines of the 1980s. She was a talented writer and editor, who successfully exploited the "me" generation's obsession with wealth, status, and celebrity. Vanity Fair combined stories about Soviet premier Mikhail Gorbachev with images of Roseanne and Tom Arnold mud wrestling.

Robert C. Maynard

Robert Clyve Maynard

Maynard purchased the Oakland Tribune in 1983. He was the first African-American to own a major daily newspaper in the U.S. He was also the first African-American national newspaper correspondent and the first African-American editor-in-chief.

Oprah Winfrey

Oprah Winfrey

In 1984, Winfrey moved to Chicago and began hosting A.M. Chicago, an ABC affiliate's morning public affairs show. Within three months, her show had outscored the ratings of the popular national talk show hosted by Phil Donahue. Winfrey changed the format of daytime talk show television by providing a platform for honest, sincere discussions of sensitive and sometimes controversial topics. Her nationally syndicated Oprah Winfrey Show was one of the most popular shows of the 1980s.

Charles Kuralt

Charles Kuralt

Kuralt is most famous for his series On the Road for which he logged more than 1 million miles in six motor homes and produced over 450 shows. Kuralt had always been drawn to unusual stories and unsung heroes. On the Road provided him with a chance to show off America's beautiful landscape, acknowledge the unique individuals that make up the United States. Kuralt received eleven Emmy Awards and three Peabody Awards during his lifetime.

Barbara Walters

Barbara Walters

In 1979, Walters joined Hugh Downs as co-host of the news magazine 20/20, and stayed with the show for 25 years. Her Barbara Walters Specials, where she interviewed world leaders and celebrities during prime time, generally enjoyed high ratings, juicy scoops, and occasional tears from the interviewee.

Michael Deaver

Michael Deaver

One of Ronald Reagan's top aides, Deaver expertly handled the media during the early 1980s. He successfully cultivated an image of Reagan as a powerful and patriotic leader, while steering the president away from having much direct and unscripted contact with the press. While Deaver was able to help Reagan easily win reelection in 1984, Deaver would later be convicted of perjury charges, leaving the administration before the end of the second term.

Political Scene

Social Climate

Media Moments

1980 – John Lennon Assassinated

A John Lennon memorial

On December 8, 1980, Lennon and his wife, Yoko Ono, were returning to their apartment home in New York when Mark David Chapman fired five shots at Lennon. Lennon, the former Beatle, died of his wounds shortly after. For many, the news first came to them from the mouth of Howard Cosell, a color commentator on Monday Night Football.

1981 – President Ronald Reagan Shot

CNN announces President Reagan shot

Just two months into his presidency, Reagan was leaving the Washington Hilton Hotel when John Hinckley Jr., hidden among the onlookers, stepped out of the crowd and fired in the direction of the president.

1981 – MTV (Music Television) launches

The Buggles

Music Television (MTV) aired the first music video in August 1981. The song, Video Killed the Radio Star by the Buggles, captured the essence of the era. During the 1980s, MTV was a dominant force on cable television system and often provided controversy with the music videos it showed.Only later would the network move into more conventional programing.

1986 – The Challenger explodes

The Challenger Explodes

In a campaign designed to revive the public's interest in space, NASA selected high school teacher Christa McAuliffe to journey into space with a team of astronauts. Seventy-four seconds after liftoff, the Challenger space shuttle burst into flames, killing everyone on board.The explosion was the media moment for a younger generation that the Kennedy assassination was to the youth of the 1960s.

1989 – The Berlin Wall crumbles

The Berlin Wall Crumbles

The physical manifestation of the Iron Curtain had separated East and West Berlin since 1961. Finally, on November 9, 1989, the East German government announced the border between East and West Berlin would be opened. Thousands of East Berliners poured into West Berlin, as young people climbed on top of the wall and began chipping away at the monument to Communism.

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