news channel space is getting more competitive in India. Recently
NDTV, Zee and CNBC launched business news channels. The Times Group
is also planning a foray into the news channel segment. Meanwhile,
Sahara is launching an English news channel for the South. All this
means that the existing channels like CNN have to keep on guard.
year CNN celebrates 25 years of existence. Indiantelevision.com's
correspondent Ashwin Pinto caught up
with CNN international senior VP Rena Golden for a lowdown
on the challenges as well as CNN's plans for the future.
you talk about the organisational restructuring that took place
in 2004 and what this achieved?
Several years of investment in CNN International has enabled us
to continually evolve and stay ahead of the competition, both editorially
and commercially. No business grows by standing still.
better serve the way our audiences watch CNN International, we changed
the way we produced our news, and made smarter use of the technology
and staff available. This process involved some staff changes, including
the elimination of some positions.
recently established a bureau in Pakistan. What are the main challenges
that you expect to face in reporting from this region?
CNN has been present in Pakistan for some while and like any
country works within the laws and media framework of that country.
Any challenges or problems that arise are dealt with on a case by
Are there any areas where you feel CNN could improve?
As a journalist, I would say that you are only as good as your
last report, article or photograph. So I strive along with all my
colleagues to do better all the time.
you planning to introduce a regional service in India and for any
of the Asian countries in the near future?
CNN's focus is on providing the best international and regional
news service to audiences in the region. We constantly re-evaluate
ways to better serve our South Asian audiences. CNN is a successful
international media player and has made public its ambition to go
regional and local.
have already executed this plan successfully in some parts of the
world. CNN has identified several countries for a regionalisation
drive and we believe that it is a question of being presented with
the right opportunity.
the programming front what new initiatives have been planned for
In 2005, CNN will celebrate its 25th anniversary of the groundbreaking
creation of 24-hour TV news, which will be celebrated with both
on and off-air initiatives to commemorate 25 years of broadcasting
24 hours of global news events. The anniversary will be marked with
special global events, including four landmark CNN Connects
programmes, that tackle issues facing the world in the decades to
will be a series of vignettes celebrating the people and events
that have had a global impact in the last 25 years; themed feature
months with top 25 lists of, amongst others, innovations, technology,
trends and sporting moments that have changed our lives since 1980.
We will also be showcasing four specially commissioned CNN Presents
documentaries on issues of global importance. This initiative kicks
off with a documentary on global warming in March 2005. Further,
special programming commissioned for June 2005 to mark the 25th
anniversary will be shown on the channel.
2005, CNN also marks 20 years of international broadcasting alongside
20 years of Larry King's agenda setting interviews and 10 years
of bringing the news to Internet readers through CNN.com. Apart
from our 25th anniversary celebration, we will also focus on many
more subjects, new shows in 2005. Editorially, we believe and have
been known to be leaders in factual and accurate reporting and will
not compromise this position.
Recently, I read a report that the format of CNN Headline News is
being changed. Could you talk a little more about this?
CNN Headline News has launched three amazing new shows covering
entertainment, legal news and a new prime time news show. They have
proved to be very popular with the viewers here in the US and have
brought a new audience to Headline News.
far what response has CNN Headline News received from the Asian
cable fraternity? Has it been launched in India?
Turner Broadcast System Asia had announced the introduction
of CNN Headline News to the Asia Pacific region in November 2004.
Initially launched in the US in 1982, CNN Headline News is currently
available to more than 84 million households and in more than 600,000
hotel rooms in the US, Canada and in some parts of Latin America
and the Caribbean. CNN Headline News is faring very well since its
launch in the region. It has been launched in India on the Dish
TV platform, aimed particularly at people with an appetite for global
CNN's Young Journalist Award initiative is laudable one issue as
far as India is concerned is the lack of trained TV journalists.
How can we overcome this problem?
Being based in Atlanta, it would be difficult for me to comment
on Indian TV journalists. With awards like the CNN Young Journalist
Awards in India and Pakistan and other similar awards across the
world, we receive an overwhelming response. Some of the work we
received in India's CNN YJA 2003 and 2004 editions in the print,
online and TV categories from young journalists in India and Pakistan
were truly outstanding. The television category saw some awesome
entries from both countries and it is truly amazing that the media
in this region is so talented.
winners of CNN YJA undergo an intense schedule at CNN's headquarters
in Atlanta or regional headquarters in Hong Kong, London or New
Delhi, designed to add value to their existing journalistic experience.
They are provided with a thorough insight into the functioning of
the world's leading news network giving the winners a detailed overview
of how the network operates. They also meet with CNN International's
editors and anchors, and experience first-hand the workings of CNN's
editorial and programming teams.
is interesting to note that even with the growth of news channels
in India, viewers are still tuning in to CNN. Our core audience
and demographics remain loyal"
few years ago you had in an interview told us that CNN was looking
to beat the first mover advantage that BBC has in the region. In
terms of channel share how is CNN faring in India?
would be unfair to look at our viewership in terms of channel share.
The audience that CNN caters to would like to know more about global
developments. CNN leads in viewership amongst business decision
makers and affluent adults who seek international news and information.
Indian affluent group continues to grow, travels regionally and
globally and does more business around the region while Indian companies
have started expanding globally. With these developments, we are
seeing a growing interest in international news and business. Your
World Today being in a prime time slot is an indication of this
growth. Then we have World News Asia, Talk Asia, CNN
Today etc which are widely viewed in the region.
proves that when big global stories happen, viewers turn to CNN
and I am confident we will continue to grow our position in the
international news market. It is interesting to note that even with
the growth of news channels in India, viewers are still tuning into
CNN, and at times like the Gulf War, we see that CNN still leads
the way. Our core audience and demographics remain loyal.
to the most recent Pan Asian Cross Media Survey (PAX), CNN International
remains the undisputed news leader in Asia, and has grown its monthly
reach among business decision makers, top management and the total
has allowed us to track long-term trends in our audience, which
is now at an all-time high in terms of monthly viewers. The most
recent two Pax data releases have also shown increases in our weekly
audiences, indicating that new viewers are now becoming ever more
Indian news channel scene is getting crowded. How is CNN able to
differentiate itself in order to cut through the clutter?
CNN is targeted at the 'discerning internationalist', who is interested
in knowing what is happening around the world. We are an international
news provider covering global news and so are different from local
news channels. Our content reflects this, and we bring viewers coverage
of global events with a regional perspective. On the news front,
CNN's New Delhi Bureau Chief, headed by Satinder Bindra, focuses
on covering domestic news and developments and has filed numerous
stories from India. In addition, CNN's feature programmes such as
Business Traveller, Global Office, Global Challenges
and Talk Asia have already done many stories out of India,
and we will continue to do many more.
Are you looking to increase your repertoire by adding more lifestyle
and entertainment shows like the property 'Living Golf'?
We have been doing a number of lifestyle and entertainment shows
which are popular with audiences in India and elsewhere. Shows such
as Talk Asia, Business Traveller, Global Challenges
are now telecast at a time more suited to Indian viewers. We will
continue to cover fashion/ entertainment and lifestyle topics/ personalities
as well such as the Oscars, the recent MTV Asia Aid Tsunami concert
in Bangkok, interviews with entertainers like Diana Krall etc.
effect is the new media, like mobile phones, having on the way TV
news broadcasters like CNN work?
The world over, wireless has become a huge industry. Mobile technology
has completely revolutionised how information is accessed, handled
and viewed in our society. It has seen an exponential growth over
the years and is a technology of the future which can only grow.
Also, it helps to create a more interactive format with viewers
that allow them to be more involved with the entire news process.
In addition, news has been one of the key drivers in encouraging
people to use more advanced services on their mobile phones, with
it being one of the most sought-after mobile services.
International has really pioneered its delivery of mobile news services
and offers a number of different products to enable people to get
news on the go. These include a java service with the top 10 stories
from CNN, CNN.com on mobile phones and an SMS breaking news service
that delivers the latest news alerts direct to subscribers mobile
phones. We have even started streaming CNN International directly
to UMTS mobile phones in some markets.
is famous for pushing the boundaries of technology, it was one of
the reasons Ted Turner was able to create CNN and broadcast around
the world. The satellite video phone is one of the most important
developments in the last few years. CNN was also a first mover on
the web and with six million each day visiting CNN.com we have enabled
many more people access CNN news than ever before. We are also leading
the way in the delivery of news service to mobile handsets, with
a number of different services on offer to mobile users. The future
is truly exciting, the digital revolution is moving very fast and
this year CNN expects to launch a broadband product in the US that
will be a market leader.
you talk about the checks and balances that are in place to make
sure that stories are fair and accurate?
CNN has earned its reputation of being fair, accurate and unbiased
in its coverage. As a global broadcaster, we have a huge responsibility
to keep our audiences well informed. We listen to all sides and
report all sides of a story while providing fair and balanced coverage.
is integral to CNN's fundamental principle of fair and unbiased
news coverage that no third party, governmental or otherwise has
any bearing on our output. Also we make sure that while reporting,
correspondents keep their personal opinions aside and all news is
put through a very strict fact checking procedure before it's put
issue that has been the subject of debate is that of "embedded"
journalism. Isn't there the danger of impartiality being compromised
if for instance a journalist is embedded in the US troops while
reporting on war?
I don't agree with the proposition that there is only a thin line
dividing "embedded" and "bedded". CNN correspondents
are well trained to report both sides of a story in a balanced and
fair manner. Time and again CNN journalists have reported both sides
of a conflict from various hotspots of the world. "Embedding"
cannot rob a trained journalist of his professionalism even as he
is witness to only one facet of a story. "Embedding" only
provides a journalist access to places and situations to which one
is otherwise barred. What they see and report is important but is
just one small part of the wider jigsaw of the story.
a global network it is always day-time somewhere and people
and events are making news all the time. So it is never dull.
This is what drives me on"
is the situation as far as advertising revenue is concerned?
International has been doing very well in India in terms of ad sales
and subscription and is steadily growing. During the last financial
year we have added a number of new clients like the Oberoi Hotels
and Resorts who were associated with our week-long initiative Eye
addition to the existing categories of advertisers, with an international
presence, even Indian companies and tourism boards etc bank on CNN
International to reach international audiences. These brands also
want to be associated with CNN International because of the strength
of the upscale viewers that the network offers.
is a normal day for you in terms of routine?
Tough, with a family to love and look after I get up early and make
sure that they are all set for the day while also listening to the
radio and watching some TV while getting ready to leave for work.
The Blackberry handheld email device is both a blessing and pain
but it does mean that in an emergency I'm not tied to a computer.
office work day normally starts before 8 am, sometimes earlier if
I have been on a conference call with London or Hong Kong and can
stretch into the evening on days when there is major breaking news.
As a senior executive I have to attend far too many meetings, but
I try each day to make time to at least be involved in how the team
in Atlanta news room is flowing.
are you able to strike a balance between work and family life? It's
tough, but important, to make that distinction.
There are some weeks when the news agenda has been very busy
when I know I have fallen short with the family. But I have strong
team of journalists and managers which does allow me to step back
and watch from the sidelines so that I can recharge my batteries
and spend time with the family
Finally, while a lot has been spoken and written about the stress
in broadcast journalism, what factors have motivated you to persist
for so many years at CNN?
No day is ever the same and I never know when and what is going
to happen in the news. Being a global network it is always daytime
somewhere and people and events are making news all the time. So
it is never dull. This is what drives me on. Also CNN is such a
dynamic place it is always inventing new ideas and distribution
platforms and ways to gather news enabling to broadcast more news
from more places, fast and quicker than ever before.