CCTV Interviewees Parrot People’s Daily

On Friday 13th, China Media Project’s David Bandurski reported an unusual move by Chinese propaganda officials amid the ongoing Bo Xilai scandal:

CMP has confirmed that daily newspapers across China — including Party papers (党报) and commercial spin-offs (子报) — were instructed by propaganda authorities to publish today’s front-page People’s Daily editorial reiterating that China is “a nation of rule of law and that the dignity and authority of the law cannot be trampled ….”

This forced placement of an editorial from the CCP’s flagship newspaper is a highly irregular move, and sends a clear message that the leadership is tightening propaganda controls across media — from social media sites and news websites to traditional media.

On his Sinostand blog last week, Eric Fish pointed out that the push behind the editorial may not have stopped with the daily print media. He noted “striking” similarities between the article’s content and a series of supposedly spontaneous interviews included in that evening’s flagship Xinwen Lianbo broadcast. Interviewees repeated key phrases from the editorial: “a socialist country under the rule of law”, “demonstrate the party’s firm determination to keep its purity”, and “strict discipline” as a “distinctive feature” of the Party.

It seems to me one of three things happened here:

  1. CCTV reporters did some serious shoe-leather reporting in several different cities across China in the space of a few hours, managing to find interviewees that happened to have nearly verbatim opinions to the People’s Daily editorials.

  2. The whole country truly was engulfed by the heated editorials and their spirited points rolled off the tongues of all those CCTV approached.

  3. CCTV told interviewees what to say.

I know I know. Chinese state media lacking journalistic integrity … truly breaking news. Last year a leaked uncut video showed a farmer being told what to say on camera by a reporter, and CCTV has had plenty of its own fake interviews exposed. But having the audacity to do it with five back-to-back interviewees speaking from a single source openly available to the public is a bit surprising; especially for a network now trying to build credibility for its ambitious overseas expansion plans.

Update: Bandurski comments on Twitter: 

And adds in the comments to this post, “Yes, of course the string of ‘biaotai’ 表态 [making one’s position known] on CCTV’s Xinwen Lianbo on the night of April 11 was not spontaneous. The interviewees were reading the text verbatim, with cut-ins of people reading the People’s Daily. This was a very unusual case of public ‘biaotai,’ not seen since 1989.”


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