CNN Brazil's announced arrival comes as the country undergoes an an abrupt swerve to the right under President Jair Bolsonaro, a pro-business ultraconservative
Rio de Janeiro (AFP) - With the launch of CNN Brazil, Latin America's biggest TV market is set to be roiled by the entry of a powerful new player looking to challenge the dominance of current leader Globo News.
Its arrival, announced this month, comes at a high-voltage time for Brazil as it undergoes an abrupt swerve to the right under President Jair Bolsonaro, a pro-business ultraconservative who took office in early January.
CNN Brazil will share the branding of the US-based network that pioneered round-the-clock news, but will in fact be a licensed separate domestic channel operated and staffed by Brazilians, in the vein of CNN Turk or CNN Indonesia.
CNN already runs CNN in Spanish for much of Latin America. CNN Brazil would provide content in Portuguese.
The Brazilian construction billionaire funding CNN Brazil, Rubens Menin, said last week that the new channel will be run and jointly founded by Douglas Tavolaro, up to recently the number two at the news division of Record TV, Brazil's second-ranked network.
"CNN Brazil will be launched nationally with news agencies in Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, in Brasilia and correspondents abroad," the statement said.
It reportedly plans to hire 400 journalists and start broadcasting in late 2019.
The business magnate did not confirm the staff figure in an interview with the Folha de Sao Paulo newspaper, but said "we need a big team of journalists and media professionals in different areas in the whole country."
Tavolaro did not respond to requests for an interview. CNN in the US directed all media enquiries to a Brazilian public relations firm filtering requests to Tavolaro.
Since Bolsonaro's election, Menin has become a vocal supporter of the far-right president, backing his liberalizing economic agenda.
Record TV, a network owned by a powerful evangelical Brazilian church, Universal, is also close to the new president, who has given it a number of one-on-one interviews while snubbing bigger rival Globo and most other Brazilian media outlets.
Menin and Tavolaro were received by Bolsonaro last week at his presidential palace to discuss the channel's launch.
- A new Fox News? -
The founders' backgrounds have led some to worry that CNN Brazil will be like Fox News of the United States -- which features reporting and commentary strongly favoring US President Donald Trump, to whom Bolsonaro is often compared -- or another media tool of the Universal church.
"Will the new channel be allied to Jair Bolsonaro?" asked Noticias da TV, a Brazilian website specialized in television industry news.
"There are no indications the new government is involved in CNN Brazil's development, but there are no doubts that it will benefit from it, even if only from the effect its creation will have on the competition," the site said.
Others, though, including Bolsonaro supporters, voiced concerns on social media that the new channel could treat Bolsonaro as critically as CNN in the US is perceived to do so with Trump.
Tavolaro scoffed at the suggestion, telling Folha de Sao Paulo: "The theories are piling up with an incredible level of invention. None of that exists. We will be a broadcaster of journalism with the sole mission of giving... information of quality, impartiality and rigor."
Meanwhile, Globo, a family-controlled media group that includes popular television channels, websites, a radio network, a national newspaper and magazines, could see its bottom line further eroded by CNN Brazil.
Up to 2014, the Globo group's finances climbed steadily. But since then, competition, including by the likes of Netflix and the internet, have eaten away at advertising revenues.
That income in 2017 came in at 14.8 billion reais ($3.9 billion at the current exchange rate), a slide of nine percent over three years.
- Huge viewer numbers -
Globo's TV network remains enormously popular however, drawing in nearly 100 million viewers a day, in large part thanks to its fanatically followed "telenovelas," or soap operas.
Compare that to CBS, America's most-watched network, which gets nearly nine million daily viewers at prime time, and the potential for television networks in Brazil can be seen -- if Globo's crown can be knocked a bit.
CNN in the US gets nearly a million viewers a day. The news network is part of the Turner Broadcasting System, which is owned by AT&T, the US telecoms giant.
The US population is 325 million, while Brazil's is 210 million.
Tavolaro, in his Folha de Sao Paulo interview, boasted of the prestige the CNN brand will bring to his operation, adding: "We are confident the public and the market will embrace CNN Brazil."