CLOSE-UP: GLOBAL BRIEF - CNN finds new global friends. Affiliation not competition is the latest watchword in TV news. By Richard Cook

The cut-throat nature of news-gathering organisations is legendary.

The cut-throat nature of news-gathering organisations is


They stop at nothing to be first with the news. However, in TV at least,

things are no longer what they used to be. Nowadays throats aren’t so

much cut as massaged, while finishing first is no longer the preserve of

the privileged.

Even small stations can join in the fun - they just have to hoist their

standard alongside the right partner. The reason is that the war among

the big organisations to be first with the news has been replaced by a

war of a quite different nature - to be first with the number of

affiliated news stations.

Last week the state South African broadcaster, SABC, announced details

of a three-year deal with the network most vigorously competing in this

conflict, the Atlanta-based CNN. The contract runs from the beginning of

next year to the end of 2000 and enables SABC to run CNN-derived

international news reports and programming such as the Larry King Show

and Q&A. It also gives the green light to a training programme that will

involve South African reporters and technical support staff attending

development courses in the US.

It’s easy enough to see what the benefits will be for SABC - not just

the training but a ready source of stories from countries such as Libya

in which the cost of establishing a standalone bureau would be


And there is no limit to the amount of CNN-derived material the station

can run. The agreed price for the deal doesn’t alter: ’If it’s a big

news year then they will do very well out of it,’ is how a CNN spokesman

puts it.

But it’s more difficult to see what the attraction is for the cable news

network. CNN already broadcasts into South Africa on the Mnet satellite

package so there is a danger that its appearance on the national

terrestrial service might erode viewership of the station itself.

That hasn’t been the experience of the cable giant so far. It now has

more than 700 affiliate stations around the world and the battle now is

with the likes of Reuters and BBC World to be the biggest international

news provider.


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