Key WarnerBros. Discovery shareholder John Malone reportedly denied involvement in CNN’s decision to ax Brian Stelter this week and cancel his “Reliable Sources” program – but called for the network to return to non-partisan coverage.

Malone, a billionaire board director at WarnerBros. Discovery and close confidant of CEO David Zaslav, said he had “nothing to do with” Stelter’s exit from CNN, a report said Friday.

Malone also acknowledged to the New York Times that he wanted “the ‘news’ portion of CNN to be more centrist,” though he added that he was “not in control or directly involved” at the network.”

Stelter had developed a reputation for espousing left-leaning viewpoints and clashing with conservatives under ex-CNN boss Jeff Zucker.

The Post has reached out to CNN for comment.

Brian Stelter
CNN also canceled Stelter’s show “Reliable Sources.”

Malone is an influential force at WarnerBros. Discovery. He has been vocal about his preferences for CNN’s future path as the merger between the two companies moved forward over the last year.

“I would like to see CNN evolve back to the kind of journalism that it started with, and actually have journalists, which would be unique and refreshing,” Malone said during an interview with CNBC last November.

Chris Licht
Chris Licht is leading an overhaul at CNN.
Variety via Getty Images

“I do believe good journalism could have a role in this future portfolio that Discovery-TimeWarner’s going to represent,” he added at the time.

As The Post reported, CNN canned Stelter as part of a plan to unveil a refreshed Sunday lineup with new programs, including “Who’s Talking to Chris Wallace,” which will begin airing next month. 

Zaslav and new CNN President Chris Licht are leading an overhaul at CNN, with both executives publicly calling on the network to shift toward fact-based, non-partisan coverage rather than the opinion-based approach of its past regime.

Brian Stelter
Brian Stelter was purportedly blindsided by his ouster from CNN.

A source told The Post that Stelter nevertheless was “taken off guard” by the news, despite persistent rumors that his job was on the line. 

Licht provided more details about his plans for CNN during a Friday meeting with staffers in which he indicated that the shakeup was just beginning.

“This is a time of change, and I know that it’s unsettling,” Licht said. “There will be more changes and you might not understand it or like it all.”

“We will continue covering media stories, including on TV, when warranted,” Licht added. “Give us some time, see how things develop, and then give us feedback.”

Earlier this year, WarnerBros. Discovery shuttered the $300 million CNN+ streaming service just one month after it launched as part of a broader cost-cutting initiative. The cancellation occurred after CNN+ failed to draw many subscribers.


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Tyler Cowan