CNNI’s news look

Larger staff part of revamp to boost Asian focus

HONG KONG — CNN Intl., continuing its plans to revamp and regionalize, is beefing up its staff in the biggest push since its 1985 launch.

CNNI president Chris Cramer, in town for Monday’s introduction of the program schedule, began a five-year mandate to regionalize the network in 1997. The net now offers four separate versions around the world, with its Asian edition reaching 26 million households in 29 countries.

Cramer said that over the past few years, the network has spent $36 million on new programming, nearly half of that in Asia.

And in the past two months, CNNI has doubled — to nearly 50 — the number of news people working in its Hong Kong production center.

The move toward a more regional product includes building a 3-1/2-hour block of breakfast programming, beefing up business coverage and whittling away at U.S.-oriented shows.

It also means revamping the weather report, and pushing to have more local weather presenters and “vernacular” reporters in news bureaus.

Cramer said just one of CNNI’s anchors is American, and about 90% of the world service is not seen in the U.S.

But Cramer, who joined the network three years ago after 25 years with the BBC, strenuously objected to a suggestion that CNNI was trying to purge its ranks of Americans.

“We’re not anti-American,” he said, adding that the goal is to produce “international news through regional eyes.”

Criticism comes

He said complaints usually come from the vociferous and well-connected American expats and travelers, who make up 1% to 2% of the audience.

Among the new shows are “CNN This Morning” anchored by Karuna Shinsho, who joined the network from Japan’s NHK. She previously worked for Asia Business News (now CNBC Asia) in Singapore.

Farland Chang, who left a post with NBC in Los Angeles, will anchor “Asia Business Morning.”

As part of the revamp, the network is launching its most wide-ranging consumer ad campaign in the Asian region. “What on Earth is going on?” is the tagline for the multimedia campaign.

For its part, CNNI saw ad sales in Asia climb 35% from 1997 to 1998 “in a pretty tough market,” said Steve Marcopoto, who heads Turner’s Asian operation. He added that the network is on track for double-digit growth this year.