According to the Associated Press, the ubiquitous Fareed Zakaria is going to be getting his own show on CNN, to be called “Fareed Zakaria â€” GPS,” where “GPS” stands for “global public square,” not “global positioning system”. Reading the news reports on the coming show, my biggest concern is that people simply won’t be interested enough to watch:
“Fareed Zakaria â€” GPS,” which stands for “global public square,” will air Sundays at 1 p.m. EDT and be rebroadcast at a yet-to-be determined time on CNN International.
CNN U.S. chief Jonathan Klein approached Zakaria about a year ago and was told that “the only show I want to do is one that fills in the huge gaping hole in American television, which is 95 percent of the rest of the world,” Zakaria said in an interview with the Associated Press on Monday.
[Zakaria] said he’s frustrated when he turns on American news networks to hear endless discussions about why Hillary Clinton should or shouldn’t leave the presidential race, because there is legitimate news elsewhere. He fears a vicious circle is at work: Networks don’t show much international news because they fear viewers aren’t interested, and viewers aren’t interested because they get so little of it. (link)
The problem with taking this approach is, of course, that it’s a little like saying to viewers, “take your medicine, pay attention to serious international news, not this fluffy campaign nonsense.” American viewers are used to a diet of tabloid-style cable news that is obsessively America-centric; indeed, they prefer it. On TV, once you leave the protected space of PBS, entertainment has to be part of the package. to his credit, it appears Zakaria isn’t completely unaware of this, but listening to his comments I’m not sure he really gets it:
Zakaria also said he understands the need to make a compelling program that won’t seem like the college seminar you tried to skip. “People instinctively think they’re going to be bored by this and you have to grab them by the lapels,” he said. (link)
The problem with this, of course, is that people watching his show are not going to be wearing lapels — because they’re not wearing suits! Indeed, on Sundays at 1pm, they’re wearing old t-shirts while in the middle of doing laundry, flipping channels to avoid having to vacuum (sorry, TMI). If Zakaria and the producers of the show don’t quite get that, I’m not quite sure how the show will work.