Just a few days after Atlanta-based HLN added the Daytime Emmy Awards to its lineup, CNN is bringing in culinary expert Anthony Bourdain for a Sunday night weekend food show.
Sister station CNN is now entering territory reserved for the Travel Channel or the Food Network, where Bourdain is seen regularly.
CNN said the show will launch in early 2013, using the same production company Zero Point that creates his Emmy-winning Travel Channel show “No Reservations,” which has been airing since 2005. He will be shot on location around the world, examining food, dining and travel rituals in different countries.
Bourdain is sardonic but knowledgeable about food and the restaurant business. He is a blatant out-of-the-box personality for CNN.
Travel Channel spokesperson, in an emailed statement, said the “No Reservations” show, which has aired eight seasons and 127 episodes, just wrapped its final season. They’ve also begun filming the second season of his show “The Layover.” Both series will run on Travel through 2013. “We congratulate him on his new venture and look forward to working with him on new projects in the future,” the statement said.
CNN Worldwide Executive Vice President and Managing Editor Mark Whitaker said CNN is starting to fish in the same waters are History Channel and NatGeo. “We’re only going to buy the things we think will fit us and what we stand for,” he said. “We’ve hired executives that specialize in this space.”
Bourdain, in his mind, creates an educational show that “promotes a greater knowledge and understanding of cultures and people around the world. It’s very journalistic even if he’s not technically a journalist.”
CNN is committing itself to 16 episodes in 2013, which will be repeated more frequently than more of CNN’s “perishable” content. Whitaker said while it will have some similarities to “No Reservations,” it will have a different look and feel. And CNN will give him more space to go to less-than-hospitable places such as Libya and the Congo.
Ralph Begleiter, a former CNN journalist and educator who teaches courses in communication, political science and journalism at the University of Delaware, said he is troubled that the network would cede editorial control to an outside company.
Zero Point’s standards will be more directly linked to the “success” of their client, Anthony Bourdain. That worries me. CNN has a reputation of its own, established through years of journalistic standards (for better or worse). Viewers have expectations that what they see on CNN is subject to a high standard of editorial supervision, fairness, diversity, etc.
Unless I misunderstand this announcement, it looks to me like Bourdain is not, really, “joining” CNN, but rather that CNN has decided to cede an hour (or however much) of its airtime to another production company. If I understand this announcement correctly, CNN’s editorial personnel will not be supervising this program. CNN’s editorial standards will not be applied. CNN’s video production standards (for instance, standards prohibiting “staging” of video scenes, etc.) will not be applied. Instead, the standards will be those of a company completely outside the CNN newsroom and reputation.
Bottom line, for me: It’s terrific that CNN wants to bring a major celebrity, with a global reputation, to its array of programming. I would be much less worried if I knew that CNN’s trained, journalistic staff would be supervising the production with high standards of journalism.
In response to this concern, Whitaker said many other cable networks work regularly with independent production companies of this ilk. CNN will screen the episodes to ensure they are up to CNN’s quality and standards, he said.
“I think it will be foolish frankly for us to not be looking to introduce more of that,” he said. “It will not replace our in-house model. We can do both.”
By Rodney Ho, Radio & TV Talk