This week’s fire at the new China Central Television complex in Beijing has set off some stern online criticism of the state-run broadcaster. Some Chinese bloggers have complained about CCTV’s tendency to bend stories to fit the interests of the government. China Digital Times translates one widely recirculated post from a blogger who writes, “Although it is a news agency, CCTV has no journalistic standards or morals.”
It was against that background that today I noticed (via Danwei) a pointed critique of one recent CCTV program. Writing on the environmental website chinadialogue, Beijing journalist Ding Yuanfang accused the broadcaster of ignoring dissenting voices in the debate over the future of the river. The main stem of the Nu, which flows near the Burmese border, is one of China’s last undammed rivers, but that may soon change. (I say “main stem” because dozens of small, mountainside hydropower dams have been built on the river’s tributaries in recent years.) A campaign by Chinese environmentalists put a temporary stop to a plan to build 13 dams on the river, but when I visited the area last year preparatory work was underway on at least two dams.
At that time a group of scholars and environmentalists complained that the project was going ahead without an open debate on the merits of the dams. Ding accuses the CCTV program of taking an unabashedly pro-dam stance and drowning out those who might have a different view. The author writes:
The series silenced five years of debate and ignored principles of journalistic balance, coming down firmly on the side of the developers and local government. It claimed that the hydropower projects would present no threat to World Heritage sites, local culture, plant or animal life, and that relocated residents would be treated well, with guaranteed homes and food. The programmes claimed the dams would do nothing more than bring bridges and roads, create jobs, improve housing, provide water and electricity, increase tax revenues, relieve poverty and bring economic development.
If only that were true. The series was not objective and the viewer was not presented with all the facts about the Nu River debate.