Friday, April 30, 2010

Xinhua to launch English TV service

The Chinese state run news agency, Xinhua, is to launch a 24-hour global English TV service adding to the propaganda machine that is the biggest in the world. The news service will be broadcast via satellite, cable systems, the Internet and cell phones according to Xinhua themselves. Produced by the China Network Corporation [CNC], which is affiliated to Xinhua, it will be relayed by the Asia-Pacific Satellite-6 at 134 degrees east longitude, on a frequency of 6065MHz or 3840MHz. Xinhua's President Li Congjun, speaking at a ceremony marking its launch, claimed the news channel would provide "objective, comprehensive, in-depth and multi-dimensional news analysis". CNC would "offer an alternative source of information for a global audience and aims to promote peace and development by interpreting the world in a global perspective," Li said. The cost of the operation is said to be around 45 billion yuan [$9.24 billion] and is due to go to air in July.

Xinhua already provides news content in several languages via the Internet. In addition China's international media output is augmented by the English language newspapers China daily and the Global Times. Earlier this year CCTV-9 shifted its focal from a general entertainment and news broadcaster to provide greater news coverage [Media Network]. Launched on September 25, 2000, CCTV-9 says it pulls an audience of more than 100 million in 110 countries and regions.

It is difficult to verify whether these figures are accurate however. While China's news services are carried on a wide range of broadcast platforms, many people will dismiss their output as propaganda. Chinese media has also to compete with much trusted networks such as the BBC and CNN. CNN's domestic output stretches across 93 million US households with broadcast coverage extending to over 890,000 American hotel rooms. However their global reach is extensive. CNN International can be seen by viewers in over 212 countries and territories and also provides local coverage in Chile, Spain, Turkey and India. By 2005 CNNi had reached more than 98.2 million homes in Europe alone, even surpassing the BBC. According to all international media surveys, CNN has consistently remained at the world level, the leading international news channel. But, on the main European markets, Euronews is not far behind. BBC World, which is transmitted outside the UK, is currently available in more than 268 million households in 200 countries and territories through a variety of digital and analogue satellite, cable and terrestrial platforms. In 2005 the BBC estimated it had a weekly global audience of 59 million people, a figure that has undoubtedly grown.

While it is not easy to obtain exacting figures of audience levels of these two major broadcasters, China's news media will need to do more than provide easy access to obtain more viewers and place itself alongside the likes of CNN and the BBC. China's news bias goes further than omitting facts and failing to report certain issues. Very often news will be deleted or even fabricated. Disseminating incorrect information or untruths is also common. In addition it is also well know that great efforts are made to block the dissemination of other news organisation's output. CNN and the BBC are routinely blocked withing China whenever a contentious story is aired. And news websites also suffer from similar restrictions. In order to compete on a level playing field China's media needs to build a reputation of trust. Russia's news agencies and media outlets such as Russia Today are still tainted by their past. Iran's Press TV is also dismissed as propaganda. China may give the entire world access to its output but it will be a long time before anyone tunes in [Xinhua / Global Times / USA Today  / WSJ].

tvnewswatch, Beijing, China

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