10 QUESTIONS FOR SUMNER REDSTONE:

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NEW YORK: “My reaction from the beginning was one of severe distress,” Sumner Redstone, chairman and CEO of Viacom, says when asked about his reaction to when CBS News backed down after defending its story on Bush’s service record. Redstone spoke with TIME’s Neil Gough in Guangzhou, China, where Redstone announced new business ventures in China country for MTV and Nickelodeon.

Asked if Dan Rather would be able to remain as long as he wants as anchor Redstone said: ”I already said that I would wait for the report to try to determine whether there should be any consequences to anybody at CBS News. I have found him, by the way, to be a very good reporter over the years. And, frankly, a very good friend. And I grieved all the more because of that friendship.”

Redstone on the role of politics: “There has been comment upon my contribution to Democrats like Senator Kerry. Senator Kerry is a good man. I’ve known him for many years. But it happens that I vote for Viacom. Viacom is my life, and I do believe that a Republican Administration is better for media companies than a Democratic one.”

When asked how closely he’s been following the CBS News controversy, he says, “Let me first give you some perspective. Neither I nor any executive at Viacom has any access to or plays any role in the news reports that come from CBS. Like you, we read about them in the newspapers. Notwithstanding that, I have, for obvious reasons, been carefully monitoring the situation. I have been talking continually with (CBS president) Les Moonves and with the members of the Viacom board. Now we have set up an independent panel—and believe me, it is independent, and believe me, it will move very fast—and I am satisfied that they will reach the right and appropriate conclusion and we will then act accordingly.”

When asked if he foresees this incident as having any short-term or long-term impact on the brand, he says, “Of course it’s had a short-term impact. It would be foolish to deny that. But long-term impact? No. Certainly not economic. Eight of the top 10 shows in all of television are shown on CBS. That’s an extraordinary record that can’t be overlooked because of this incident. And what advertisers buy are programs.”

When asked if he sees a need for a change at the News division, he says: “I think it would be too early for me to judge. I intend to maintain a kind of independent view until I see what this panel has to report. And then you can assume that whatever is appropriate will take place.”

When asked about Dan Rather, and if he will be able to remain as long as he wants as anchor, Redstone says, “I already said that I would wait for the report to try to determine whether there should be any consequences to anybody at CBS News. I have found him, by the way, to be a very good reporter over the years. And, frankly, a very good friend. And I grieved all the more because of that friendship.

When asked about politics, Redstone says, “There has been comment upon my contribution to Democrats like Senator Kerry. Senator Kerry is a good man. I’ve known him for many years. But it happens that I vote for Viacom. Viacom is my life, and I do believe that a Republican Administration is better for media companies than a Democratic one.”

When asked if the China market has opened up, he says, “I have been coming here for many years. Those years were spent for the most part in building relationships of friendship and trust with the various officials of the Chinese government. And as a result, from a commercial standpoint the doors have just opened—and they have opened wide.”

Asked how his channels do in China, he says, “Nickelodeon is the highest-rated product on the CCTV (China Central Television) kids’ channel. And we expect to triple our distribution by the end of the year to make the total distribution of MTV China about 10 million.”

Asked how China channels do in the U.S., he says, “We believe in cultural exchange. We’ve gotten CCTV into a lot of hotels in the U.S. We export their product through the MTV Music Awards, which is a joint venture with CCTV. We are doing the things we think will endear us ultimately to China and keep opening the doors.”

Asked if censorship in China is an issue, he says, “We really don’t have that problem. The programming on our channels in China is co-produced with a Chinese company. We are very conscious of the taste of the Chinese people and the Chinese government. And therefore we don’t produce material that invites criticism from China.”

Contact: Ty Trippet, 212-522-3640, Jennifer Zawadzinski, 212-522-9046