NEW YORK, June 7 (AFP) - Chris Licht, the embattled head of CNN, has stepped down "effective immediately," the network's parent company Warner Brothers Discovery announced Wednesday (Jun 7), as the global news outlet struggles to reverse a ratings decline.

After joining CNN last year, Licht came under fire for editorial decisions including a recent town hall meeting with former president Donald Trump that was dominated by cheering from supporters and jeering at moderator Kaitlan Collins.

The shakeup, which comes as major news outlets pivot towards the 2024 US presidential election, highlights the challenges facing those organisations that are aiming to appeal to a broad audience in a deeply divided country in which misinformation is rampant.

During Licht's tenure, CNN saw ratings diminish even as it tried to position itself in the middle between the hard-right Fox News and the progressive MSNBC.

In announcing the change, Warner Brothers Discovery chief David Zaslav said he has "great respect" for Licht, whom he described as passionate about journalism.

"The job of leading CNN was never going to be easy, especially at a time of huge disruption and transformation, and he has poured his heart and soul into it," Zaslav said.

But following last week's publication of a lengthy article in the Atlantic that chronicled numerous interviews with Licht, including in gym workout sessions, his delicate position appeared untenable.

Under the plan announced Wednesday, CNN will undertake an active search for a replacement. In the interim, the network will be led by executive vice presidents Amy Entelis, Virginia Moseley and Eric Sherling, as well as Chief Operating Officer David Leavy.

Shares of Warner Brothers Discovery jumped 8.4 per cent.