"WE WANT TO BEAT
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.
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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