China plans media splurge to win global voice

Tue Jan 13, 2009 9:18am EST
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By Emma Graham-Harrison

BEIJING (Reuters) - China wants to remake its stodgy state news agency and television into a globally respected voice that will match its economic clout, media sources said, and may pour up to 32 billion yuan ($4.68 billion) into the project.

Communist officials feel their country is battered by negative coverage in Western media and hope the lavish spending on Xinhua news agency and China Central Television will earn greater recognition and credibility overseas for the stations and the Chinese take on world affairs that they present.

"It has become an urgent strategic task for us to make our communication capability match our international status," Propaganda Chief Liu Yunshan wrote in a New Year's essay for the Party's main ideological journal, "Seeking Truth" (Qiushi).

"Nowadays, nations which have more advanced skills and better capability in communications will be more influential in the world and can spread their values further."

Underlining the uphill battle in the search for credibility in a country where censorship is common, a group of 22 young intellectuals this week published a letter calling for a boycott of CCTV, which they denounced as a propaganda monopoly brainwashing the nation.

But as major foreign media groups struggle in the face of online competition and the credit crisis, normally staid Xinhua is laying surprising plans to become a multi-media giant and take on state television on its own turf.

It has already issued its overseas bureaux with equipment and orders to make television, radio and blog reports as well as the usual text, said Steven Dong, director of the Global Journalism Institute at the prestigious Tsinghua University.

"It's very likely Xinhua news agency is going to receive a TV license later this year or at least later next year," said Dong, who also advises the government on its public relations strategy.   Continued...