CNN launches new channel in Brazil

CNN Philippines stopped broadcasting on Wednesday after a coronavirus case was confirmed in the building where the television channel is based, forcing it off the air while the offices are disinfected

CNN launched a new 24-hour cable news channel in Brazil Sunday, expanding its footprint in Latin America and looking to challenge the market dominance of long-time leader Grupo Globo.

The new channel, CNN Brasil, is a "licensing partner" of CNN, meaning it is locally owned and operated but uses the US-based network's name and branding, as well as some programming from CNN International.

It scored something of a scoop in its first night, landing an exclusive interview with President Jair Bolsonaro.

The far-right leader defended his decision to participate in a mass rally by his supporters earlier in the day, which defied his own health ministry's recommendations on containing the coronavirus pandemic.

Bolsonaro criticized what he called virus "hysteria," saying: "canceling (events) won't contain the virus. You can't just stop the economy, that would put people out of work."

CNN Brasil has faced questions over how independent its editorial line will be.

Unlike in the United States, where CNN is critical of President Donald Trump, the Brazilian network is being scrutinized for its apparently close ties to Bolsonaro, an admirer of the US president.

Chief executive Douglas Tavolaro previously headed the news division at Brazil's second-largest TV network, Record, a channel launched by evangelical pastor Edir Macedo, the founder of a mega-church seen as close to Bolsonaro.

Chief financial backer Rubens Menin, a billionaire construction and real-estate mogul, has meanwhile openly supported the Bolsonaro government, despite previously working closely with the left-wing governments that led Brazil from 2003 to 2016.

That has led to speculation the network could become a "Brazilian Fox News," the channel known for its close ties with Trump.

CNN Brasil, however, has vowed to maintain an independent editorial line.

The channel launched with an estimated investment of 700 million reals (around $144 million) over 10 years and reportedly has an initial staff of 600 employees.

Headquartered in Sao Paulo, the economic capital, it will also have offices in Rio de Janeiro and the capital, Brasilia.

The Portuguese-language channel joins CNN en Espanol, which launched in 1997 and broadcasts across most of Spanish-speaking Latin America.