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China's global media challenge

January 16, 2009

By Bei Wang
Radio Netherlands
15-01-2009
 
CCTV International logoThe Chinese government is investing almost five million euro in its main media organisations in the hope of improving the country's image internationally. With its rapid economic development over the past two decades, China has been attracting more attention from the international community and has realised that the image created in the global media was not all that positive, that its global views are far less convincing than its economic achievements.
 
Beijing Olympics
 
The Beijing Olympics last year were supposed to improve China's image. China strove for perfection in every detail of the event, even temporarily loosening the media restrictions surrounding the games. However, several incidents attracted a lot of negative attention in the western media. From the Tibetan riots to the protests which dogged the progress of the Olympic torch across the world, to the ongoing contaminated milk scandal: all of these contributed to something of a crisis in China's public image.
 
According to Yu Guoming, vice-dean of the Renmin University School of Journalism, the image of China portrayed in the western media made Chinese officials realise that its global views are far less convincing to those abroad than to a domestic audience. That's in spite of China's economic development, which has gained global recognition.
 
Media expansion
 
Under such circumstances, it is not surprising that, as the South China Morning Post reported recently, the Chinese central government is investing 45 billion RMB (almost five million Euros) in its main media organisations. The aim is to improve the country's image internationally. China's main official media, such as China Central Television (CCTV) and the state-run newspaper The People's Daily, are at this moment busy 'meeting consultants' and 'drafting proposals'. Given their ambitious overseas expansion plans, each organisation could receive 15 billion RMB.
 
To help win cash from the government's 'bulging propaganda budget', the state media giants have already started major recruitment of overseas reporters and foreign-language experts. The official broadcaster CCTV will launch Arabic and Russian channels this year.
 
Boycott CCTV
 
Ironically, just as CCTV is getting ready to go more international, a group of Chinese intellectuals has called for a boycott. They say Central Television is too conservative and
 
            "has turned its news and historical drama series into propaganda to brainwash its audience."
 
In an interview with Associated Press, CCTV's spokesperson defended the broadcaster's reports - including those of last year's Tibet riots and milk scandal - as "timely and sufficient". He also pointed out that no country is immune to propaganda.
 
"Even the US used propaganda about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and invaded the country."
 
It sounds as if China's official media are already challenging the world.
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