After presiding over the opening of Hong Kong Disneyland last week, Walt Disney Co. President Robert Iger headed straight to Beijing to meet Liu Yunshan, chief of the Communist Party’s powerful Propaganda Department. Disney declined to say what the two men discussed, but it’s a good bet that Iger, who will become chief executive Oct. 1, renewed his case for the Disney Channel in China, and that once again he was told to wait. Disney has been waiting since 2003 for a broadcasting license from Beijing so it can air its programs to some of the 340 million homes with cable TV.
Last year, prospects looked good when China moved toward loosening rules on foreign media investments. But in recent months, Liu and other leaders of the Chinese government have clamped down on foreigners’ participation in China’s burgeoning media industry, declaring last month that they wouldn’t allow more foreign television channels and would tighten their grip on the 31 satellite broadcasters in China.