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Beijing's New Global Broadcasts May Have Greatest Impact Inside China

  • Jim Stevenson

China has launched a new 24-hour television news channel in English aimed at international audiences. Critics are skeptical that Xinhua will have an impact in an already crowded news market.

Research fellow Dean Cheng of the Asian Studies Center at the Heritage Foundation in Washington says China has two simple reasons to broadcast in English.

"The first is to present China's version of the world to the global audience. So you have a 24-hour news broadcast in the world's most common language, which would be English. And as a result, you have newscasters presenting in subtle or not so subtle forms on the China's views on the affairs of the day."

Those views are being broadcast by CNC World, or the China Xinhua News Network Corporation. CNC World says it will present international news with a Chinese perspective and aims to offer an alternative source of information to a global audience. Cheng says the news program also has a larger goal.

"The other aspect here is the ability to as a result influence not just broad public opinion but potentially actual government decisions."

Amid perceived internal censorship of China's domestic media, the global English-language Chinese broadcast aims to reach out with more of a Western style.

Zhao Xinshu is the Dean and Chair of the Hong Kong Baptist University School of Communication. He says while the two appear to be broadcasting different versions of the news, China's domestic and outside programs are more alike than not.

"Both are linked together, and more so now. Of course their immediate concern is their domestic audience because they feel unstable, they feel threatened. The government, the regime feels threatened. They understand they were not elected. They have to provide another source of legitimacy."

Professor Zhao says legitimate information begins to filter in as the Chinese media operates more in an open market environment.

"They compete with each other for the audience, for advertising revenue. And when that happens, you have a market phenomenon. That different media competes with each other. When they compete with each other, they want to please the audience. When they try to please the audience, they give them information, including information from abroad. That is one way that information gets into the so-called state-owned media."

Zhao says the individual broadcasters and reporters will return to China with a different approach to news.

"Many of them or most of them would come back and join the domestic competition and will become part of the evolution in the Chinese media and the political system." And he says the ultimate impact will be greater inside China compared to the rest of the world.

"So they will change more than they can change the Western audience. It is not necessarily bad for the Western audience because it does not hurt to have different views, even if it is controlled heavily under the government. Overall, it would be good for everyone."

China has ventured into international broadcasting before. State-owned China Central Television (CCTV) News launched a 24-hour English-language channel in 2000 that is readily available in the United States. CCTV also broadcasts abroad in Spanish, French, Arabic and Russian.


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