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"Canada can, within a positive friendly atmosphere, ask the Chinese government to resolve the Tibetan situation."

Supermarkets spread news as China advances on English language broadcasts

June 30, 2009

Times Online June 30, 2009
Jane Macartney in Beijing

China's plans to spread its "soft power" will take a great leap forward
tomorrow with the start of English language news broadcasts on European
supermarket screens (Jane Macartney writes).

The secrecy of the project and the unwillingness of officials to give
details of which supermarkets - or countries - will offer the broadcasts
hint at the style that the state-run programmes will offer.

The official Xinhua News Agency has been chosen to begin the broadcasts and
will be making its first foray into TV. It was selected by Beijing's
propaganda mandarins because of its large number of international news
bureaux. It also has a lock on the distribution of news to mainstream
domestic media.

Chen Yue, a spokesman for Xinhua's English news department, said: "China has
recognised the importance of soft power, and through the medium of
television and the internet the Chinese Government aims to strengthen its
influence internationally." Related

Early this year reports emerged that the Government had launched a 45
billion yuan (£4 billion) scheme to fund a major international expansion of
state broadcaster CCTV, the People's Daily newspaper - the official
mouthpiece of the Communist Party - and Xinhua, which is the designated
supplier of government news.

The broadcasts by Xinhua to Europe will consist mainly of news briefs of
about 10 to 15 minutes as well as a 30-minute segment of feature and
lifestyle programmes. All are recorded in the news agency's Beijing studio.
The agency has broader ambitions to burnish China's ambitions.

Mr Chen said: "It's still unclear exactly how many countries and outlets
will carry our English news but we hope to expand these channels greatly
with more broadcast partners by the end of the year." It is also unclear how
Xinhua will alter its programming to create broadcasts that will grab the
attention of international audiences and compete with BBC and CNN as well as
the state-funded - and increasingly popular - Russia Today and Qatar's

Chinese journalists and media may be ill-equipped for the challenges of
creating news programmes palatable to international audiences because of
their primary role to convey Government propaganda. Even domestic analysts
say that the state-run media face a challenge to retain the interest of
domestic viewers increasingly able to access news through the internet and
bored with a lifetime's diet of Government-approved information.

Indeed, State-run Chinese Central Television has said that it plans to
revamp its main 30-minute evening news broadcast to vary a decades-old
unchanged menu comprising activities of top leaders followed by the
successes of industrial development and concluding with four minutes of
international news.

One popular joke about the news goes: "In the first 10 minutes the leaders
are very busy, if not abroad then in the countryside. In the middle 10
minutes, the whole nation is very happy, if not getting rich then harvesting
crops. In the last 10 minutes, other countries are all very sad, if not
exploding then rioting. Conclusion: life in China is very happy."

In terms of covering events in China and gaining interviews with
policymakers, the channel will command unparalleled access in a country
where foreign reporters are routinely excluded from official events and
usually barred from reaching the scenes of disasters or social unrest.

Despite new rules since the Olympics last year that allow foreign reporters
to travel freely in China, in practice Tibet and most ethnically Tibetan
areas remain out of bounds and local police in other regions turn them away
from scenes of unrest citing concerns such as safety.

China's dedication to the soft power drive, at whatever cost, has been
outlined by its top official in charge of ideology. Politburo Standing
Committee member Li Changchun said this year: "Communications capacity
determines influence. Whichever nation's communications capacity is
strongest, it is that nation whose culture and core values spread far and
wide and - that has the most power to influence the world."
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