David Hudson on Sun, 16 May 1999 00:45:13 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> FWD: "CNN counts costs of war"

CNN counts costs of war

Media TV network faces losses in trying to live up to Gulf coverage

By Janine Gibson Media Correspondent
Friday May 14, 1999

The global news network CNN is counting the cost of the unexpectedly
prolonged air campaign in Yugoslavia and has admitted coverage of other
stories will be affected by the multimillion-dollar bill.

CNN estimates that $1.1m (680,000) worth of its equipment has been stolen,
confiscated, damaged or destroyed in Yugoslavia since Nato bombing began
there less than two months ago.

In addition to the equipment, which has to be replaced, coverage of the war
is costing CNN an estimated $150,000 a day. CNN International's president,
Chris Cramer, described the cost as a 'taxi meter'.

A $400,000 satellite transmitter placed next to the Serbian TV station in
Belgrade was destroyed when Nato bombed the building. Five CNN-owned
vehicles and a rental car have also been lost, and a camera, a night scope
and other equipment worth more than $250,000 were destroyed when a Serbian
mob recently attacked the CNN correspondent Brent Sadler.
Yet more equipment has been seized by Belgrade police and other
authorities. Staff have even been given receipts for confiscated items, but
are not confident they will get the equipment back.

Mr Cramer said: 'We will have to pull back elsewhere - there's a forecast
for the year and that's it. I have to cut my suit accordingly.

'Because our reputation relies on our performance on something like this,
we have to over-perform, which means that we would channel more resources
into this story than, say, the BBC would. Which means you divert less
resource into other stories.'

CNN, which made its name in the US providing coverage of the 1991 Gulf war,
cannot afford to fall behind in its coverage of the Yugoslav conflict, Mr
Cramer admits. The channel's global audience has increased to 151.5m since
the Gulf war, and there is pressure to outperform domestic news providers
in times of war.

Mr Cramer admits that war coverage is a loss leader for the channel. 'Our
revenue does not increase, even though ratings go up . . . There's not a
great amount of dollars in this war.' Advertisers do not relish placing
their products in commercial breaks around Nato bombing, he said.

CNN has learnt lessons from the Gulf war coverage that it is applying to
the war in Kosovo, said Mr Cramer. 'There is less of a preoccupation with
the 'boys' toys' - we're not so seduced by the whizz bangs. There's also
more scepticism this time around and quite a high level of disbelief that
this can go out in mainland Europe.'

BBC news sources say its coverage has doubled the corporation's overseas
news budget since the conflict began, as the BBC has staff operating out of
five cities around Kosovo. In the past, BBC governors have had to allocate
extra cash to the news directorate during wars.

ITN refused to comment on its spending, despite industry speculation that
the news organisation - which supplies news bulletins to ITV, Channel 4 and
Channel 5 - has had to ask broadcasters for an increase in its budgets.
  Guardian Unlimited  Guardian Newspapers Limited 1999


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