This is a partial transcript from "Your World with Neil Cavuto," January 3, 2006, that was edited for clarity.
NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: With us now, the chief of CBS, Leslie Moonves. CBS began trading on the Big Board today, after splitting from Viacom — shares jumping about 3 percent — his news division all over this coal mining story as well.
It is a big story, isn't it?
LESLIE MOONVES, PRESIDENT, CBS CORPORATION: It is a big story. It's pretty exciting that the CBS Corporation is back on its own. And, you know, it was a big day for us.
CAVUTO: Do you get involved in CBS News matters, like that, or do you stay hands off?
MOONVES: I have, obviously, you know, in some of the things that've happened in the past.
The deal with memo-gate was something that, obviously, I was very actively involved in. But, fortunately, I have a new head of news named Sean McManus, who is a spectacular executive. And he's handling the day-to-day things. And most of the decisions come from him.
CAVUTO: All right.
Let's talk about things having nothing to do with what's going on in West Virginia right now, and to what's happening in your company.
MOONVES: You know, we don't speak about any prospective person. Right now, Katie Couric is under contract to NBC. She is until May. And that is about all we will say.
CAVUTO: Would you be willing to pay $20 million a year?
MOONVES: I'm not going to talk about Katie Couric.
CAVUTO: All right. What about our own Shepard Smith?
MOONVES: Shepard Smith certainly is worth $20 million. That I will tell you right now.
CAVUTO: So, he's in. Katie, you're debating it.
CAVUTO: What do you make of the attention this is getting? It's has been no secret you have not exactly been in love with the news division, the old days. I think talk was that you thought they were a bit elitist, a bit snobby.
CAVUTO: Mary Mapes has said much in her book about you.
MOONVES: No, but I think Mary Mapes' book shall remain — you know, I — I don't need to talk about that.
CAVUTO: But she trashes a lot.
MOONVES: Right. I know that. I know that. But that...
CAVUTO: Did that bother you?
MOONVES: No, not really, not really. You know, the news division is very important to me and to CBS. It's had a great tradition.
I think it's still a spectacular division in our company. And, you know, we are very proud of it. As I said, we have new leadership there. And there's a new producer, new head of "The Evening News." And I think you're going to see big changes at CBS News. And they have already begun. And I'm very proud of the division.
CAVUTO: But you didn't like the way it was going.
And memo-gate, according to Mary Mapes, was one of the things that was the ammunition you needed to go after...
MOONVES: Neil, you're quoting a lady who was let go by CBS, you know? So, she wrote a book defending her position. You know, you can read the book or not. And I'm not allowed to comment on it.
CAVUTO: Would you like to see an anchor team, like ABC?
MOONVES: You know, we are not sure yet. We are still working out different ways of going with this thing. And, you know, there are many different ways we can go with it.
CAVUTO: OK. But you're not going to tell me, apparently.
MOONVES: No, not now.
CAVUTO: OK. Good. Let's get a sense of where the media industry is going.
CAVUTO: Remember when Time Warner, you know, got together with AOL. Everyone thought, there's going to be this super concentration. Now you're all de-concentrating. What's going on?
MOONVES: Well, there's no question the Time Warner-AOL merger was not the greatest merger in the history of business, you know?
CAVUTO: Well, maybe it was. Everyone is kicking AOL's tires.
MOONVES: Maybe it will be. Maybe it will be.
But, you know, when we brought CBS together with Viacom about six years ago, there was some terrific assets. The assets were sort of set up on either side. Our cable assets went to the MTV group, as well as we took in the television station, the UPN network. The Paramount studio ended up being split up. They took the feature part. We took all the television assets.
And then we discovered that both companies were better focused and better operated on their own. And, as a result, we think it's a better way to go with the split.
CAVUTO: If CNN were up for sale, would you buy it?
MOONVES: You know what? We have always looked at CNN and thought it was great. You know, we are envious, frankly, of FOX, having you guys. We are envious of NBC having MSNBC, you know, and CNBC.
We think, you know, cable and networks go together. However, I don't think CNN will ever be for sale.
CAVUTO: But partnerships have a rocky history, right?
MOONVES: Partnerships are always tough. Joint ventures are always tough, because you don't know who is calling the shots. You know, you need one boss.
CAVUTO: So, if you were to get CNN, you would want all of CNN. You wouldn't want this partnership nonsense.
MOONVES: Well, you know, partnerships are tough. They're difficult to work.
Do you think that the rap against traditional media, that they have a liberal bias, is true?
MOONVES: I don't. I don't. I think traditional media, by and large, is very fair. You know, we're fair and balanced.
CAVUTO: Do you think in memo-gate CBS was fair and balanced?
MOONVES: Look, the memo-gate was a mistake on the part of certain people involved with the news division at CBS. Actions were taken against them. We felt, you know, certain things were done that were inappropriate.
But I don't think it was done because anybody had an agenda.
CAVUTO: You have expressed admiration for Jon Stewart and people who are a little irreverent.
Is it fair to say that the future of broadcast news, whatever it is, is going to be a little more irreverent, maybe more hip, more humorous?
MOONVES: I don't know if it will be more irreverent.
I am a big fan of Jon Stewart. I think what Jon Stewart does is that he does an amazing job. And it was very interesting during the last election. More people between the ages of 18 to 25 got their news about the campaign through Jon Stewart than any other vehicle, you know, including FOX, including CBS.
And I think some of the things Jon has to say would be fun. At the same time, I think we need news that's more user-friendly. I think what's scary right now is, the average age of the network news viewers is 60 years old. And I think we have to prepare something that is a little bit more friendly to people who are a little bit younger.
CAVUTO: But what about people who just don't get their news from traditional vehicles, that it's maybe the Internet now, maybe other technologies now, maybe over their phones now?
MOONVES: It has definitely changed from the days of Walter Cronkite, when he was the most trusted man in America.
By the time people get home at 6:30, they have an awful lot of the news. You know, they're watching television during the day. They're on the Internet. They're on their cell phone. They have the news headlines.
I think it's our job to edify that news, as opposed to give it.
CAVUTO: All right. So, we have gleaned at least from you that it's between Shep and Katie. Right?
MOONVES: That's exactly right.
CAVUTO: OK. Good. All right. There's no Italian in that...
CAVUTO: Not yet. All right. Thank you, Leslie Moonves, the CBS Corporation CEO and president, had a good day on Wall Street today as well.
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