Glenn Greenwald reports on what happened to a CNN investigative report that it had commissioned on the Arab spring in Bahrain in 2011. On arrival there, the CNN news team was shocked at the harsh treatment being meted out to everyone including them and they turned in a story that was highly critical of the Bahraini government.
The resulting news segment was aired just once domestically on CNN but never aired on its international arm CNNi, though that is the channel that goes out to the world. They refused to explain the decision to not use a news item that cost a lot to produce on the very channel where it would be most widely seen and have the greatest impact. It seems as if CNN was succumbing to pressure from the Bahraini government, which was unhappy with how they were being portrayed. CNN has also put pressure on the chief reporter on the story Amber Lyon to not talk about the report or why CNN may be suppressing it.
Why would CNN care what that government thinks? In a follow-up post, Greenwald says that CNN has major business interests with governments in that area.
CNNi has aggressively pursued a business strategy of extensive, multifaceted financial arrangements between the network and several of the most repressive regimes around the world which the network purports to cover. Its financial dealings with Bahrain are deep and longstanding.
These arrangements extend far beyond standard sponsorship agreements for advertising of the type most major media outlets feature. CNNi produces those programs in an arrangement it describes as “in association with” the government of a country, and offers regimes the ability to pay for specific programs about their country. These programs are then featured as part of CNNi’s so-called “Eye on” series (“Eye on Georgia”, “Eye on the Phillipines”, “Eye on Poland”), or “Marketplace Middle East”, all of which is designed to tout the positive economic, social and political features of that country.
The ultimate business model, in the words of NYU journalism professor Jay Rosen, lies in not reporting the real news but in “making CNN this kind of colorless brand of news, that every hotel chain, cable provider, and government around the world can see as safe.”
Amber Lynn kept pressuring CNN to show the report but they refused and refused to explain why and told her to keep quiet about it. Rather than refuse to speak out, Amber Lyon basically sacrificed a promising career and left CNN because, she said, “I want to encourage mainstream journalists to speak up when they discover their companies are misleading the people, doing PR for corporations and governments and disguising it as journalism. Many journalists get into this business, for low pay and grueling hours, because they genuinely want to make a difference, expose injustice. But what’s the point if the elephant in the room is the conduct of own company, and you ignore it?”