Wandering China

An East/West pulse of China's fourth rise from down under.

Hello America, China TV reporting [Straits Times/Washington Post]


China makes a pronounced soft power move to effectively convey its point of view. So here we witness the commencement of a fight for global mind share through the proxy of English-language media control. That said, ‘experts say the country’s lofty media goals may collide with the communist government’s long history of official censorship and propaganda.’

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Hello America, China TV reporting
CCTV’s new US set-up aims to boost Beijing’s ‘soft power’
Washington Post
Source – Straits Times, published Jan 19, 2012

Hello America, China TV reporting. –ST ILLUSTRATION: MANNY FRANCISCO

WASHINGTON: In a downtown D.C. office building, China’s most ambitious effort to become a global power in English-language TV news is literally taking shape.

In a few weeks, China Central Television (CCTV), the nation’s state-run international broadcaster, intends to originate news broadcasts produced by a staff of more than 60 journalists hired in recent weeks from NBC, Bloomberg TV and other Western news organisations.

The new Washington operation, its managers say, will be a hub of CCTV’s global news-gathering operations as the network launches a major expansion outside China to compete with international broadcasters such as CNN, the BBC and Al Jazeera.

China watchers see an even larger aim in the country’s multimillion-dollar investment – capturing the attention, and perhaps the hearts and minds of viewers throughout the Western Hemisphere. China’s ambition, they say, is to use news reporting and cultural programming to advance its ‘soft power’, or cultural influence, making it commensurate with the nation’s growing economic might.

China’s leaders think their country is ‘constrained, even contained, by the global dominance of Western media groups and Western culture’, said Mr David Bandurski, editor of the China Media Project, a research consortium at the University of Hong Kong.

To counter this, he said, China is ‘building networks across various types of media that can be used to convey’ the Chinese point of view to the world.

‘China’s leaders hope this will help the country channel public opinion globally, offsetting what they see as overwhelmingly negative coverage of China by Western media.’

To this end, he said, China has poured billions of dollars into the international expansion of government-controlled news sources such as CCTV and Xinhua. CCTV opened a new broadcast centre similar to the Washington operation in Nairobi last week.

But Mr Bandurski and other China experts say the country’s lofty media goals may collide with the communist government’s long history of official censorship and propaganda.

China’s desire for international respect and stature raises a question for its journalists: Can they report without fear or favour, free from government manipulation and second-guessing? Those hired by CCTV for its United States-based effort acknowledge the challenge and that viewers are likely to be sceptical.

But they insist that the network will have autonomy from Beijing, and that its journalists are seasoned professionals who understand the difference between propaganda and news.

CCTV would not permit any of its officials or journalists to speak on the record for this article.

Instead, the network offered responses to e-mailed questions that it said should be attributed simply to ‘a representative of CCTV News’ Broadcast Centre’ in Washington. ‘The management of CCTV News in Washington is empowered to make editorial decisions,’ it said.

‘CCTV News will establish its credibility over time by the accuracy and comprehensiveness of its news product. Only by watching the programmes over a period of weeks or months can viewers truly determine for themselves its credibility.’

As described by several of its Washington hires, CCTV’s Washington operation will produce original news reports and locally produced talk shows. It intends to broadcast an hour of programming a day from Washington starting next month, increasing to four hours this summer. It has not announced a line-up or named its anchors.

The network is also adding reporters in what it calls ‘key’ cities such as Miami, Chicago and Toronto, as well as in Latin America.

Since its launch in 2004, CCTV International’s English-language reporting in the US has been limited to wire-service stories and a few original pieces produced by freelancers.

Perhaps as a result, the service has not been very successful, said Ms Xin Xin, a senior research fellow at the China Media Centre at the University of Westminster in London.

However, she added that CCTV does not need a lot of viewers to succeed, just the right ones. ‘The choice of Washington shows that its target is the US’ political elites,’ she said.

WASHINGTON POST

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Filed under: Beijing Consensus, Charm Offensive, Chinese Model, Culture, Democracy, Influence, International Relations, Media, Peaceful Development, Politics, Public Diplomacy, Soft Power, Straits Times, Strategy, The Chinese Identity, The construction of Chinese and Non-Chinese identities, Washington Post

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