China TV (CCTV or China Central Television) is coming to your TV set soon. Actually they are here already and have a greater reach than Al Jazeera in the United States. Who knew?
It’s hard to find CCTV on your television set. It’s like the Al Gore channel. You know it’s there but you don’t have any reason to go look for it.
CCTV has over 20 channels around the world, from sports to entertainment to news, and their purpose is to serve the network’s mandate – promote the values of the Communist Party.
CCTV plans to expand their market in the US and Latin America. Great, what could possibly go wrong?
They’ve hired away some Western reporters to build a 100-person DC bureau. They claim that they will not engage in propaganda. How they do that with a mandate to promote the values of the Communist Party, I have no idea.
Newly-hired Western reporters were in China for an initiation. One CCTV executive addressed them saying, “The reason you people are before us is because we want to be recognized as a legitimate, objective journalistic force. The idea is for this to be not a Chinese mouthpiece, not a Chinese propaganda tool, but a global channel produced with a Chinese flair.”
That is not very believable since, to date, their TV has been scrubbed of anything controversial such as the Tibetan massacres and self-immolations or the story of the dissident Chen Guangcheng.
The claim by Beijing reporters is that they are not being censored but would they dare say otherwise?
CCTV wants to be China’s CNN. Now there’s a goal. When CNN was airing the Gulf War, my friends in the service said it didn’t at all resemble what they were experiencing.
CCTV also plans to get into hotels. Makes you just want to book your hotel based on whether they have CCTV, doesn’t it?
Nothing like having Chinese communists competing for our already biased media coverage. Will we notice the difference? It’s not like we get anything but propaganda 24/7.
I can’t wait until we have this new way of funneling money to these brutal dictators.
How they have dealt with journalists in the past might give us a clue as to how CCTV will handle freedom of the press:
In the late morning hours of June 5, 1989, after witnessing soldiers shoot at dozens of civilians as they fled for safety in and around Tiananmen Square, Laurie [former ABC correspondent, now working for CCTV] and a camerawoman turned down a side street. In the crowd they spotted a tall man in a sport coat named Xiao Bin, frantically ranting about what he had witnessed and overheard from others. “The bastards killed thousands!” said the man, a factory worker from the northern city of Dalian, when they interviewed him. “Tanks ran over people. Crushing them.”
While no official death tally exists, estimates of the dead, including soldiers, now range from the hundreds to the thousands. Laurie told his camerawoman he thought Xiao was exaggerating. “She said, ‘yes, but it’s awfully good television.’ I said ‘you’re right,'” Laurie recounted.
As Chinese officials rushed to cover up the events of the previous night, Laurie and his colleague managed to send their footage to Hong Kong for transmission by satellite to ABC’s studios in New York. But somehow, someone in Beijing was watching.
“The Chinese — and its unclear to me this day how they actually did it — intercepted the outgoing signal,” said Laurie. The unencrypted signal from Hong Kong had been hijacked. Around the time that ABC’s audiences in New York listened to Xiao Bin’s testimony, so did 200 million Chinese viewers of CCTV, with a subtitle underneath: “This man is wanted,” it read. “‘He is a rumor-monger and counter revolutionary. Please turn him in to your nearest Security Bureau office.'”
A few days later, Xiao was turned in, and in a public hearing also broadcast on CCTV, accused of “hooliganism” and forced to apologize for spreading “rumors.” He was sentenced to 10 years in a labor camp.
Laurie was horrified. “The Xiao Bin story is probably the most traumatic journalistic event in my life,” he said. “Very rarely in a career as a journalist do you, in effect, send someone to prison. The story is very complicated, and with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, you can always say ‘that could have been prevented if you had done A, B, and C.’ But in the context of the day after the Tiananmen massacre, it was almost unavoidable, in a way.”
Read the story at Foreign Policy Magazine