News / Asia

China Expands Media Reach with English Language News Channel, Digital Media Push

China Expands Media Reach with English Language News Channel, Digital Media Push
China Expands Media Reach with English Language News Channel, Digital Media Push


Laurel Bowman

Chinese news is expanding. Xinhua News Agency recently launched a 24-hour English-language news channel for broadcast worldwide. And China's largest state-run broadcaster, CCTV, is expanding its global broadcasts in several languages. Beijing has long complained that Western media coverage is biased against China. Media watchers here in the United States view China's state controlled media as propaganda.

With this flashy promo, China splashed its latest media effort on the world, CNC World, a 24-hour English-language news service presenting global news with a China focus. Media analysts wonder if it could soon rival other international broadcasters.

CNC (China Xinhua News Network Corporation) is half-owned by private investors. Wu Jincai is the CNC chairman.

"A system financially backed by the government, in any country, is always a waste with problems of inefficiency. But in a market system its scale is adjusted," Wu Jincai says. "It creates a very good pattern."

"In reality we are in business," adds Zhao Peng. "We are in big business."

Big business indeed. Senior Editor Zhao Peng says CNC research shows the global communications market expanding 30-fold in the next decade. Xinhua is building a massive headquarters on New York's Time Square, alongside media giants News Corp and the New York Times. And China's biggest state-run broadcaster, CCTV, or China Central Television, is expanding its broadcasts overseas in English, Spanish, Arabic and French.

"It's very interesting," says Blake. "When I tell the story everybody has that sort of 'aha' moment, when they say, 'Why wasn't this being done sooner?'"

Douglas Blake covers the stock market for CCTV through News Services International, a Washington-based company.

He reports live daily from the floor of the New York Stock Exchange and the headquarters of NASDAQ. At first, friends and family were incredulous.  

"When they think you are working with Chinese television, you must be constantly monitored and censored and they really are tough on you to make sure the message is controlled," he adds. "It's the exact opposite. We have complete latitude, I haven't been stopped once in saying anything and I am very impressed by that."

"They are trying to show the world what they are all about you know their history, their culture, from their perspective."

Jack Fensterstock and business partner James Campbell run News Services International and a separate entity, Tantao News. Both help China tell its story to the world. They provide content for CCTV, and hired Douglas Blake and other reporters to cover stories in the United States.

Tantao News provides Xinhua content to mobile phone users of Blackberry, iPhone and Android.

James Campbell, media entrepreneur says, "From a technology standpoint, it is a very efficient and very fast way for these Chinese news agencies to get out and connect with new audiences primarily decision-makers and young people in North America … a very important target market…"

Campbell says his research shows one in four people now receive news on a mobile device, with that market exploding in China.

Fensterstock and Campbell decide what Xinhua stories they will offer their news consumers.

"If there are news reports that we see emanating from Xinhua bureaus in Iran or, say, North Korea that are clearly, you know, what I would call off the wall, you know highly inflammatory stories that have no news content, we won't put them up," says another media entrepreneur Jack Fensterstock.

It's those stories that have free press advocates worried. Clothilde Le Coz of Reporters Without Borders says Xinhua is often the main agency covering stories like last year's clashes between Uighurs and Han Chinese in Western China.

"When you are a Xinhua reporter you get there because you are a Xinhua reporter and you will basically broadcast the side of the government so that would be a way also to have like a monopoly on certain information," says Clothilde Le Coz.

For now, she says, CNC World will make little difference in the lives of average Chinese.

"It is in English, so it is not made and it is not meant for Chinese people," she adds.

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