The Voice of China’s “Soft Power”

Students at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism have put together an online report looking at global media. From their own introduction:

Global Media Wars is a project produced by 15 reporters from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism’s International Newsroom. The reporters monitored five state-funded, English-language TV news channels available in tens of millions of homes worldwide via satellite, cable or Internet livestream. Each channel was monitored for several weeks in early 2011; analysis of how each covered Egypt’s revolution, as well as a range of other issues, is included in the reports.

The project includes an in-depth look at CCTV’s international English-language channel, CCTV-I:

Yet the programs aired on CCTV-I differ from the heavier-handed content of state TV news shown within China itself. While much is omitted – the poverty and pollution endemic to certain regions in China, or the unrest among Uighur and Tibetan minorities – CCTV-I does not appear to falsify or blatantly distort information. There is no fiery Cold War, east-versus-west rhetoric.

[...] The news that is broadcast daily by CCTV’s local stations to Chinese audiences follows a far more rigid, propagandistic format. It usually opens with scenes of top leaders in formal meet-and-greets with diplomats, then delivers upbeat features on life in China, concluding with gloomy news from the rest of the world. (“Leaders are very busy. Chinese people are very happy. The rest of the world is in chaos,” is how one Chinese citizen described the party’s media formula for domestic audiences.)

In contrast, the global programming of CCTV more closely approximates international standards of objectivity. Jim Laurie, a professor of Asian media at Hong Kong University and a paid consultant for CCTV’s international ventures, said some editors in the global operation are pushing for even greater freedom.

“A debate has developed both inside and outside CCTV over the role of foreign language television broadcast from China and the need to free it from the restrictions tightly held over domestic broadcasting,” he wrote in a recent e-mail interview. “Gradually a ‘one country, two systems’ approach is taking shape” in which separate standards apply respectively to the local and international arms of CCTV, said Laurie. But, he added, that debate is still in an embryonic state.