China’s State Media Boom

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It’s a bad time for media. Advertising revenue is weak, circulations are falling and nobody wants to pay for news online. But there is a glimmer of hope in China. Or at least in China’s state-run media. As the South China Morning Post reports today, the government is considering a proposal to invest $6.5 billion in expanding the global reach of China Central Television, Xinhua news service and the People’s Daily. The SCMP says:

The central government is preparing to spend 45 billion yuan (HK$51 billion) on the overseas expansion of its main media organisations in an aggressive global drive to improve the country’s image internationally.

The three state media giants – Central China Television, Xinhua News Agency and the People’s Daily – could each get up to 15 billion yuan if they came up with “worthwhile projects” to enhance their global influence, a well-positioned source said. Even the smaller operator China News Service could get 2 billion yuan.

Perhaps they might first try harder at home. The BBC reports today that a group of Chinese are now calling for a boycott of CCTV because its programs are heavy with propaganda and ignore or downplay important stories:

Chinese intellectuals have signed an open letter calling for a boycott of state television news programmes.

The letter says China’s Central Television (CCTV) has turned its news and historical drama series into propaganda to brainwash its audience.

The author of the damning letter told the BBC that the action should at least serve as a health warning to the susceptible public.

One Chinese state press publication that’s already floated expansion plans is the Global Times, a nationalist tabloid run by the People’s Daily. It’s planning an English-language edition. Last month the website Danwei posted an ad calling for editors for the new publication. After Hong Kong’s Apple Daily, which sadly isn’t available on the mainland, the Global Times is my favorite Chinese newspaper. It’s a popular read on domestic flights in China. Everyone wants to read about the latest outrageous behavior committed by the West. Once their English-language edition gets going, the rest of the world will learn too.