China Spends 45 Billion to Extend Media’s Global Reach

Cam MacMurchy at Zhongnanhaiblog reposts and comments on two articles published in the January 13 issue of the South China Morning Post (subscription required). According to the first story, Beijing in 45b Yuan Global Media Drive:

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.

MacMurchy quotes from the same article:

has a plan to expand its overseas bureaus from about 100 to 186,” the source said, suggesting it would have bases in virtually every country in the world.

Another media source said Xinhua planned to create an Asia-based 24-hour television station to broadcast global news to an international audience.

Management at , Xinhua and the People’s Daily have been busy meeting consultants, inviting experts to brainstorming sessions and drafting proposals.

[…]The media sources said Xinhua was ambitious about building an “influential and reliable” station like the Qatar-based Al-Jazeera network.

[…]CCTV has announced plans to launch Arabic and Russian channels this year, aggressively expanding its team of overseas reporters and recruiting foreign-language professionals.

Also from the South China Morning Post, Big Offers for English Speakers in Media Jobs adds:

As media organisations in the rest of the world cut staff to save costs, those on the mainland are busily recruiting foreign professionals, especially English speakers, to help win cash from the central government’s bulging propaganda budget.

MacMurchy reposts more:

In a speech last month, Li Yuanchao , chief of the party’s Organisation Department, encouraged recruitment of overseas talent with a “free ideological mindset”.

Ms Zhang said the speech effectively lifted policy restrictions on attracting foreign experts, boosting CCTV’s efforts to attract staff.

[…]Many English reporters in other Beijing-based media organisations said they had received “very competitive salary package” offers from the Global Times as the head-hunting campaign becomes more urgent, with some saying apartments were being offered as well as high salaries.

“I was told that an editor could be paid 300,000 yuan (HK$341,000) a year, with a one-off offer of an apartment,” one reporter said.

MacMurchy, however, is skeptical:

As with Communism itself, this media plan is good in theory. There’s no doubt that there is a gaping need for more Chinese viewpoints in the great discussions of the day. If Qatar can have an internationally-influential television channel, surely China can too. And there’s no reason why the New York Times, the Guardian, BBC, CNN et al should have a disproportionate sway on what we see and hear.

China’s point of view and context for that point of view are sadly lacking, as I’m reminded of each time I’m asked to guest on a foreign radio station. But before we start considering an international Xinhua TV channel, what happened to CCTV 9? Isn’t CCTV 9 supposed to present China’s view to the world? Is there a point in lauching a second one without fixing the first?

The problem isn’t lack of TV channels or media outlets that present China’s case to foreigners, it’s the lack of any media outlets that present China’s case well. If Xinhua‘s new TV endeavor is run in the same manner CCTV is, with the same group of life-long communisty party members in bad suits calling the shots, it will be doomed to failure. In fact, I’d go one step further: any mainland Chinese run media outlet will be taken less seriously as long as general media controls are in place.

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