September 1st, 2010
04:57 PM ET
The Discovery Channel finds itself at the center of a hostage situation which appears to be tied at least in part to its programming.
Discovery Communications – which includes the Discovery Channel as well as more than 100 networks such as TLC, Discovery Health, Animal Planet and Planet Green – is well known for popular shows about mega-families like “19 Kids and Counting,” “Kate Plus 8” and “Quints by Surprise.”
The man identified by law enforcement at the center of a hostage situation at the corporation’s headquarters, James Lee, posted an angry manifesto where he demanded that the Discovery Channel "stop encouraging the birth of any more parasitic human infants."
Shows about families with multitudes of children were not part of the original mission of the network. The company began in 1982 when John Hendricks, a history graduate who wanted to expand the presence of educational programming on TV, founded the Cable Educational Network.
Three years later, Hendricks introduced the Discovery Channel, which at the time was devoted entirely to documentaries and nature shows.
The channel expanded its programming from 12 hours to 18 hours a day in 1987 and, according to the corporation’s official timeline, Discovery Communications acquired The Learning Channel (TLC) in 1991.
In the years that followed, TLC built a solid reputation for family-focused programming like “A Wedding Story and “A Baby Story” before becoming the home base for its break out hit, “Jon & Kate Plus 8.”
The success of a series about the day-to-day life of a couple, their twins and sextuplets led the network to roll out similar programming. In an earlier CNN story about the evolution of TLC from its former name "The Learning Channel", Joe Flint, a staff writer for the Los Angeles Times who covers entertainment, said cable networks often evolve over time in their quest for bigger audiences.
"A lot of cable networks have moved away from what their core mission is," Flint said. "If you look at the History Channel, there's not an awful lot of history on it anymore, and likewise, A&E isn't featuring a lot of arts and entertainment programming.”
Discovery Communications bills itself as “the world’s number one nonfiction media company reaching more than 1.5 billion cumulative subscribers in over 180 countries.”
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