News / Asia

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

William Ide

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

Tired of Waiting, South Africans Demand Change ‘Now’

With chronic poverty and lack of basic services largely fueling recent xenophobic attacks, many in Rainbow Nation say it’s time for government to act More

Challenges Ahead for China's Development Plans in Pakistan

Planned $46 billion in energy and infrastructure investments in Pakistan are aimed at transforming the country into a regional hub for trade and investment More

'Forbidden City' Revisits Little Known Era of Asian-American Entertainment

Little-known chapter of entertainment history captured in 80s documentary is revisited in new digitally remastered format and book 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.
Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festivali
X
April 24, 2015 4:09 AM
Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Keeping Washington Airspace Safe Is Tall Order

Being the home of all three branches of the U.S. federal government makes Washington, D.C. the prime target for those who want to make their messages and ideas heard. Unfortunately, many of them choose to deliver them in unorthodox ways, including from the air, as a recent incident clearly showed involving a gyrocopter landing on the Capitol’s West Lawn. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.
Video

Video Hope, Prayer Enter Fight Against S. Africa Xenophobia

South Africa has been swept by disturbing attacks on foreign nationals. Some blame the attacks on a legacy of colonialism, while others say the economy is to blame. Whatever the cause, ordinary South Africans - and South African residents from around the world - say they're praying for the siege of violence to end. Anita Powell reports from Johannesburg.

VOA Blogs