A conservative television network that would feature investigative reporting is planned by a Virginia group now offering $35 million in private stock.
"Our plans right now are to start a news program first," said Ray W. Youmans, a Washington area businessman and cofounder of Century Television Network. "The entire $35 million that we are seeking we have allowed ourselves a year to raise."
Lynchburg businessman J.W. Burton is CTN's chief financial officer. Other officials with the fledgling network are from the Washington area.
Youmans declined in an interview from his Alexandria office recently to say how much money CTN has in hand. He also declined to outline an arrangement through which he said CTN would obtain much of its news footage from Europe.
A promotional packet distributed by CTN said at least 40 percent of U.S. television viewers want "programming with more value-based orientation."
Youmans balked when asked whether the idea was to produce "conservative" or "anticommunist" programming.
"We would prefer to call it more objective rather than conservative," he said. "Anticommunist is a pejorative term. We do take the view that a lot of reporting that goes on now is not that well-balanced."
He cited recent coverage of the Reagan-Gorbachev summit in Washington.
"People were clamoring to adopt the treaty before they knew what it said," Youmans said. "The press almost, to our way of thinking, went overboard to endorse the process."
How would CTN have covered the summit? "I think we would have given a lot more attention and a lot more coverage to the track record of the participants," Youmans said. The network might have run segments showing how the United States "rebuilt" Western Europe after World War II, while the Soviet Union "enslaved" Eastern Europe, he said.
Youmans said the initial programming envisioned by CTN founders would be a format similar to "60 Minutes," but with one story in each hour show.
He said that most of the European footage CTN is interested in is produced for government stations and is less sensational than stories produced by the U.S. news media.
"I think the public is a little fed up with sensationalism. They go to the supermarket every week and see the National Enquirer staring them in the face. I mean, how many stories about people being captured by UFOs can you stomach?"
Youmans predicts that CTN will get back its $35 million in less than a year, and then would target its broadcasts to nonnetwork television stations and cable companies. Advertisers have expressed an interest in the programming, he said.
One industry analyst was unsure whether the CTN blueprint will pan out on that kind of a budget.
"It's totally different to start anew as opposed to a company like CBS that's established," Rod Macklin said from his Baltimore office with Legg Mason Wood Walker.
But Youmans predicted CTN could get on its feet with $35 million and grow from there.
"A lot of the money that the major networks spend is on overkill," he said. "They get caught up in the same rat race. On a given day, the major networks all cover one major news event, and there have to be things out there they aren't covering."