Though Chinese laws and regulations ban paid promotional material that is not labeled as such, the practice is so widespread that many publications and broadcasters even have rate cards listing news-for-sale prices.
And while Western companies and many Chinese journalists are loath to discuss the subject, public relations and advertising firms are sometimes surprisingly candid about their roles as brokers in buying flattering coverage, referred to here as “soft news” or “paid news.”
Ogilvy & Mather, one of the world’s biggest public relations and advertising agencies, acknowledged that it pays Chinese media outlets for client coverage in some categories.
“Our policy is to advise our clients to not participate in such activities,” the agency’s Beijing office wrote in an e-mail, in response to a reporter’s questions. “However, in some industries, such as luxury, the practice of soft news placements is very common so this is something that we have also done before.”
Read more about media corruption in China via CDT.