How Officials Can Spin the Media

From China Media Project:

Ever since President Hu Jintao’s major media policy speech back on June 20, 2008, party leaders have been obsessed with “public opinion channeling,” or yulun yindao (舆论引导), the banner term of what we have called at CMP “Control 2.0.” Unlike the Jiang Zemin-era media control term “guidance of public opinion,” channeling is less focused on suppressing negative news coverage and more concerned with spinning news in a direction favorable to the leadership. As we’ve pointed out, however, this is much more than “spin” — it’s spin with all the advantages of traditional media controls. Trusted party-state media may be encouraged to report breaking news, such as mine disasters, more actively and from the scene, but controls are maintained or tightened for in-depth coverage.

The term “public opinion channeling” in fact rose to dominance before Hu Jintao’s media policy speech in 2008. The crucial turning point was unrest in Tibet in March 2008 and the resulting international public relations disaster for China. Tibet in 2008 has in many ways become the media failure that precipitated the rise of “channeling,” in the same way that widespread protests in the spring of 1989, and the crackdown that followed, were the media failure that prompted the rise of “guidance of public opinion” as the dominant term for almost two decades.

…In a recent piece in Guangdong’s Southern Weekend, Chen Bin (陈斌) takes a look at this newly released volume on the policy that is taking the news and propaganda field by storm in China. “It is ordinary for officials to think about public relations, and people naturally hope to receive praise rather than censure,” Chen writes. “But public opinion channeling must not become the covering up of the truth, otherwise the outcome will be the opposite of what is intended.”.

June 19, 2010 4:40 PM
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