CNN sticks to its mandates

Cabler to open bureau in Dubai this week

Sustained coverage of a war is a costly venture, but CNN will not back off in order to save a buck, top CNN brass said Wednesday.

Turner Broadcasting System prexy-CEO Jamie Kellner said the company’s flagship news service is a “very profitable business” that can support what CNN News Group chairman-CEO Walter Isaacson, CNN News Group chief news exec Eason Jordan and their team of journalists are doing.

In fact, while each of Turner Broadcasting System’s businesses continues facing unique economic challenges, all are committed to upholding their mandates, TBS brass promised during their portion of AOL Time Warner Cable’s day at the TV Critics Assn. Tour in Pasadena.

CNN is opening a bureau in Dubai this week, tour members were told, and Christiane Amanpour just landed a rare interview with Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad.

At Turner Entertainment Networks, division prexy Bradley Siegel said, the commitment to the costly originals biz of general entertainment nets TBS Superstation and TNT is “unwavering.” That’s despite the fact TNT recently shuttered its studio-style originals group. Execs said TNT will hire an originals exec to run a small department.

CNN has cut jobs, too, although Isaacson said more people now are working at CNN than were working there when he joined. Isaacson added that the emphasis on news salaries and talent wars is not as big a deal as it is made out to be.

Promo push planned

However, promoting its stars and its scoops is something CNN will continue to do aggressively. Kellner suggested that if CNN promotes Amanpour’s upcoming interview with Syria’s president, the net likely will pull “half a million more viewers” than it would if it just skedded the event as part of regular coverage. “That is the art of television,” he said.

Even Paula Zahn, subject of the recent “sexy” promo snafu, expounded on the importance of promos.

She said the sexy promo was a “gaff,” but that spots showing “who we are, what differentiates our show” are imperative to the success of her new “American Morning With Paula Zahn.” Mandate of that show, which competes with broadcast nets’ morning news shows, is to cover the news, she said. “Viewers need to know they will continue to see the Pakistani Ambassador to the U.N. while our competitors are mixing drinks.”

HBO walks ‘Wire’

Meanwhile, at its afternoon presentation, HBO said “The Wire,” created and exec produced by David Simon, will be produced in Baltimore and debut later this year. Skein will follow a single investigation that culminates in complex, dangerous wiretaps and surveillance. Dominic West leads the ensemble cast and Clark Johnson directed the pilot.

And Monica Lewinsky drew a full ballroom of crix to hear her discuss upcoming HBO doc “Monica in Black and White,” which preems March 3.

The former White House intern said she approached HBO, which paid her for her participation, because the gag order that was part of her immunity deal had expired. Also, “I hoped the documentary would be able to fill in some historical gaps, correct misinformation and call attention to some issues that have been lost,” she said.

Lewinsky was asked whether the press or the country still cares or should care about her tale. One of the pic’s producer-directors, Fenton Bailey, responded by saying America should be more interested in truth and justice than ever.