Television

"WE WANT TO BEAT THE BEEB" : CNN senior vice-president Rena Golden has seen the best of television news coverage during her 15-year tenure at global news provider CNN

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CNN senior vice-president Rena Golden has seen the best of television news coverage during her 15-year tenure at global news provider CNN. There‘s been the Gulf War - which made the cable news service a hot property - the Russian Coup, the Bosnian War, the Asian Economic crisis, the war in Kosovo, and the Hong Kong handover. She has also played a vital role in developing news shows such Q&A, CNN This Morning, The Art Club. She began her career at the network as a production assistant in 1985, and today she is the No 2 to the network‘s president Chris Cramer. That‘s quite a rise for a woman from a small town in Bihar. The Indian Cab&Sat Reporter caught up with the lady for a tete a tete.

Excerpts:

What plans does CNN have for the south Asian region and India in particular?



CNN will start a south Asia specific service, with a lot of emphasis on local developments to be launched by July. The service will be time shifted to south Asian time. We also want to include two to three programmes from India within prime time and are in conversation with local production houses for that purpose. These shows will revolve around technology, business and news and current affairs. This is part of the regionalisation drive that commenced in September 1997. Soon we will be having five CNN services - one for the US, the second for Europe, the third for Latin America, the fourth for Asia and the fifth south Asia. Riz Khan our Q&A presenter will play a prominent role on the screen while more such presenters will be originating from the region. The hub will continue to be in Atlanta though the Hong Kong bureau will contribute considerably. We have doubled our staff there only as of last May and increased our Asian programming from 14 to 30 hours.

Will the channel continue to be free to air?



CNN South Asia will go digital. Set top boxes will be needed to receive the service. We may even charge a nominal licence fee from cable operators.

How will you ensure a balanced coverage in a region that is sitting on a tinder box?



We have been doing it so far. But we have recently opened an office in Islamabad and then we have a correspondent and bureau chief in Delhi, freelancers in Sri Lanka and Nepal. Additionally, we will be able to tap into Time-Warner resources in the region such as CNNfn‘s stringers.

What about dubbing in local languages?



The group has expertise in this area because of Cartoon Network which is in Hindi and Tamil and will likely be dubbed in other Indian languages too. But as far as CNN goes, dubbing is something we have to look at not right away but in the future. We have started with the programming block and time-shifting and could move in with regional languages if the market demands it. We will gradually expand the band. We have also commissioned film maker Bharat Bala to come up with the fillers for the channel.

Do you think you can beat back the first-mover advantage of the BBC in this region?



Definitely. We want to be No 1. We would like to topple the Beeb from its comfortable perch. This is the only market where we are trailing the BBC because of its historical association with India and its longer presence through its radio service. We want to change that and we will.

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