News / Asia

China's State-Run CCTV Seeks to Grow English Speaking Audience

The visit of Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping to Washington this week has been leading television news programs in the United States. And not all of them are produced by U.S. broadcasters. China’s state-run China Central Television, or CCTV, has joined America’s increasingly crowded market of cable news programs.

In less than five months, CCTV America has hired more than 65 people to get its Washington, DC operations off the ground. Before the U.S. elections in November, it plans to grow its staff to nearly 100 and more than double its current hour-long nightly broadcast.

CCTV America has lured seasoned journalists, anchors, producers and editors from the likes of Al Jazeera, Fox News and the BBC with salaries that sources tell VOA are, in some cases, 20 percent higher than its competitors.

Phillip Yin, a former reporter and anchor for Bloomberg Television and CNBC in Hong Kong and Singapore, said he joined CCTV to be a part of history.

"This is a very special operation, if you will, a project, that will define the relationship between the U.S. and China for decades to come," Yin said.

The broadcaster’s U.S. debut this month, and the opening of CCTV Africa in Nairobi, Kenya last month, are the latest step in Beijing’s multi-billion-dollar campaign to expand China’s global media footprint. CCTV says it reaches 100 million viewers in 120 countries and territories, and that’s just one of several state-run media outlets making tracks around the world.

Soft power

The move comes at a time when China’s political and economic actions at home and abroad are coming under increasing scrutiny.

Beijing’s image is complicated at best in Africa, where it is building major infrastructure projects and boosting local economies, but is also accused of overlooking human rights abuses in its quest for natural resources.

China’s foreign investments are a dynamic source of support to America’s economy, but the massive U.S.-China trade deficit is a point of tension.

China’s attacks on rights advocates, journalists and other activists are also a sensitive issue.

In China, state media is tightly controlled and expected to put the Communist Party’s interests first. That style of journalism could be a harder sell in foreign markets.

Sarah Cook, an East Asia analyst at the U.S. rights group Freedom House, says it is hard to imagine that the journalists at the new operation won’t quickly run into problems. “I am pretty skeptical about how much leeway they are really going to have because of the breadth of censorship topics [in China],” she said.

Editorial staff at CCTV America say they won't shy away from touchy topics and note that the operation is locally controlled in Washington, not Beijing.

"They didn't hire us saying, ‘We want you to do this.’ They hired us saying, ‘We really want your experience and expertise. We want to raise our level, our profile. We want to follow your lead,’” said Barbara Dury, formerly with CBS’s 60 Minutes program. She is now the senior producer of the news magazine show Americas Now. “Now, when that changes, that could be a different story."

Delicate balance

When asked how CCTV America would cover sensitive subjects such as protests against the Chinese vice president’s visit this week, Jim Laurie, a veteran foreign correspondent and executive consultant for CCTV, said such developments would be handled on a “case by case basis.”

However, Laurie said that portraying CCTV as just a mouthpiece for the Chinese government ignores the complexity of what the broadcaster does.

"I put this channel in the same context I would put Al Jazeera. Is it the mouthpiece of the Qataris? Or CNN. Is it the mouthpiece of commercial broadcasting in Atlanta? Is the BBC the mouthpiece of the British government? Is French 24 the mouthpiece of the French?  Is Russian Today, or Russian RT as it's called, the mouthpiece of Vladimir Putin? I leave it to you to judge those kinds of things."

There's no reason, Laurie added, that China should not be able to do quality, objective, and respectable television.

Despite the assurances, media rights advocates say China’s approach to global news remains a work in progress, much like its U.S. headquarters. A recent visit to the broadcaster’s Washington news center revealed that sleek modern studios are up and running, but the office spaces and conference rooms are still under construction.

VOA Mandarin service correspondent Wu Shaorong also contributed to this report.

You May Like

UN Ambassador Power Highlights Plight of Women Prisoners

She launches the 'Free the 20' campaign, aimed at profiling women being deprived of their freedom around the world More

Satellite Launch Sparks Spectacular Light Show

A slight delay in a satellite launch lit up the Florida sky early this morning More

Fleeing IS Killings in Syria, Family Reaches Bavaria

Exhausted, scared and under-nourished, Khalil and Maha's tale mirrors those of thousands of refugees from war-torn countries who have left their homes in the hopes of finding a better life More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs