London, Asharq Al-Awsat – CNN International has announced it will start broadcasting live daily news programming from a brand new broadcast facility in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates, as of early 2009.
The development is part of ongoing plans for CNN’s new broadcast and production centre set to open in the Abu Dhabi Media Zone, which makes the Emirati capital the fourth international broadcast centre alongside the existing facilities in London, Hong Kong and Mexico City; and US production centers in Atlanta, Washington DC, New York and Los Angeles.
The new CNN hub will be a custom built news centre overseen by the newly created role of managing editor CNN Abu Dhabi. The operation will house approximately 30 staff including a new CNN International anchor; and programming, production and newsgathering staff who will play a key role in increasing CNN’s coverage of the Gulf region and the wider Middle East.
CNN also announced that it is moving the production of its 2 Middle East focused feature shows ‘Inside the Middle East’ and ‘Marketplace Middle East’ to the UAE.
For his part, Tony Maddox, MD CNN International told Asharq Al Awsat that the network will study producing more content from the region and that it considers this move “a long term investment”, while also saying “we will certainly look at any new possibilities that presents themselves”.
We operate in many countries in the world where there are restrictions, challenges, threats to journalists… we don’t operate anywhere where we are not able to report transparently and report openly”
As for guarantees, Maddox says: “We don’t seek guarantees from anyone, people know what they are getting into when they are signing up with CNN, they know what we are about… and people in this case and other cases have been supportive of that”.
The reality is running an internet operation and some newsgathering isn’t like running a major broadcast center, this is going to be a broadcast center similar to the ones in London and Hong Kong, this will be where will we do shows from, this has serious requirements, so its not a question of either or… its purely a logistics issue”.
And with regards to previous talks of opening up a bureau in Saudi Arabia or a appointing a correspondent over there, Maddox tells Asharq Al Awsat that this issue is still being discussed.