Monday, March 28, 2011

Corporate Media Model Complains about the Cost of Covering Major News Events

The Wrap

From Japan to Libya, disasters and political upheavel around the globe are wreaking havoc on the already-skeletal budgets of cable and broadcast news organizations.

“We've already had a year's worth of breaking news coverage, and it's not even the end of March,” David Verdi, NBC News VP of worldwide newsgathering, told TheWrap.

News organizations may have already spent their annual budgets for covering foreign events and still have nine months to go, one veteran cable news executive told TheWrap.

"If Saudi Arabia goes up in flames, all bets are off," the executive said.

That's because each far-flung top story comes with an astronomical price tag.

NBC spent $1.5 million on its first day covering the Japanese tsunami, according to one knowledgeable individual. That’s roughly the total amount it spent reporting on earthquake ravaged Haiti over a period of several months.

But that’s hardly the only international disaster crying out for coverage.

In the Middle East, networks are spending on the level of $2 million to cover each fresh political upheaval, according to an individual with knowledge of those budgets.

“The first day of a catastrophe the costs spike -- you have to fly your crew and your anchors in, and broadcasting equipment. That's a million-dollar hit right there,” Verdi told TheWrap.

Cable news organizations, which are dedicating many more hours to coverage of the earthquake in Japan and Middle East uprisings than their broadcast counterparts, are racking up bills that are significantly higher.

Broadcasters are mum about the numbers of reporters and crew members they are deploying to the far flung locales, but former ABC News producer Stuart Schwartz estimates that at least 20 people from each network have been sent to cover the various foreign catastrophes.

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