China’s new English media will have 19x BBC’s budget


by Sunny Hundal    
10:30 am - January 8th 2013

      Share on Tumblr

The Chinese government is building an English-language media behemoth, and they are sparing no expense.

An extensive feature in the Columbia Journalism Review says that it will aim to have 19 times the annual budget of BBC, currently the world’s largest news organisation.

You have to take that with a pinch of salt of course, but you can’t accuse the Chinese government of lacking ambition. The Chinese government allocated $8.7 billion in 2009-2010 alone to “external publicity work” says Sambuddha Mitra Mustafi at the CJR.

I don’t doubt it will eventually become a serious player: after all people used to scoff at Al Jazeera in its early days too.

The whole piece is worth reading but a few things stuck out:

Liu, who has worked in CCTV’s international news team for 16 years and has seen English programming go from 30 minutes a day to a 24-hour operation, defended her team. “The West believes that bad news is always good news,” she says. “In China, we believe in balancing news with social responsibility, so we do not provoke tensions in our society.”

I bet many people in the West would also agree with this, because the imagined opposite of this stance looks like the Daily Mail. But is it always wrong to report things that may provoke tensions? For example, they probably believe reporting on Tibetan separatism falls under this category too.

But I think CCTV’s success will come in other ways: by gaining credibility with non-white audiences and forcing the likes of the BBC to follow:

For Africans weary of the West’s bad-news-only coverage (poverty, political turmoil, natural disasters), CCTV offers a welcome alternative. On February 26, Talk Africa devoted its entire half hour to a London conference that brought together representatives from 50 countries to discuss solutions for Somalia. “New hope for Somalia” sounds like an overly optimistic title, but when you consider that the conference received almost no mention in the Western press, you begin to see how Chinese media can appeal to an African audience.

You can see how this works: you get credibility with certain audiences and do their stories better; eventually even the likes of the BBC and CNN have to take you seriously.

That is how Al Jazeera did it, by covering the Middle East better than any western news organisation could. As power shifts to the East, I suspect CCTV will gain an edge over Western rivals (and perhaps even Al-Jazeera).

    Share on Tumblr   submit to reddit  


About the author
Sunny Hundal is editor of LC. Also: on Twitter, at Pickled Politics and Guardian CIF.
· Other posts by


Story Filed Under: Media ,News


Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.


Reader comments


Isn’t China’s population almost 22 times larger than the UK’s?

And what else are they going to do with those foreign exchange reserves, other than promote and protect their foreign investment and aid through a world media organisation?

2. Chaise Guevara

“But is it always wrong to report things that may provoke tensions?”

I don’t think they’re saying it is. I think they’re saying they won’t exaggerate bad news for dramatic effect.

“In China, we believe in balancing news with social responsibility, so we do not provoke tensions in our society.”

You know, this line rather calls this story to mind:

Journalists at a major Chinese paper, Southern Weekly, have gone on strike in a rare protest against censorship.

The row erupted after a New Year message which had called for guaranteed constitutional rights was changed by censors into a piece that praised the Communist Party.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-china-20929826

This new project sounds rather more like TASS than the BBC.

Isn’t China’s population almost 22 times larger than the UK’s?

Not sure that comparison holds – you need a larger budget to cover a larger population but there are economies of scale too! It’s not a direct correlation.

The BBC is the world’s largest media organisation. This is very little to do with population size.

Spot on Sunny, especially the bits about reaching non white global audience, AJ has shown the way, interesting times ahead…

In China, we believe in balancing news with social responsibility, so we do not provoke tensions in our society.

‘Social responsibility’ in State owned media meaning ‘responsible to the State’ rather than ‘responsibility to the people’.

7. Left Not Liberal

“‘Social responsibility’ in State owned media meaning ‘responsible to the State’ rather than ‘responsibility to the people’.”

And social responsibility in privately owned media means either (1) responsibility to our commercial sponsors (2) responsibility to our advertising partners or (3) responsibility our company shareholders.

What is to be done?

I watched a lot of the CCTV English language channel whilst in China; and I also read a lot of English language print media.

I came back fully aware of the problems of state censorship, but nevertheless very positive about the editorial approach that has more of a focus on good news and positive narratives.

We should remember that in the UK, lack of state control and censorship does not mean lack of undemocratic control and censorship of media.

Small elites of media moguls and their toadying editors get to decide the content and framing of most of our print news. And the BBC has allowed its own editorial agenda to become increasingly swayed and subdued by the print media and their anti-BBC campaigns.

Timbo: “We should remember that in the UK, lack of state control and censorship does not mean lack of undemocratic control and censorship of media.”

Fortunately, without government control we have access to a range of press and broadcasting which is not under the control of News Corp.

The Pearson press – the FT and The Economist – has extensive international readership, which acts as a check on unfetterd chauvinism and partisan loyalties. And there is the web – devised by a Brit, Tim Berners-Lee – which gives access to world media. The search engines for the web make it easy to retrieve archived press, government and think-tank reports and academic papers. Cover-ups of mistakes of omission and commission by governments and authorities are so much more difficult to sustain now. Politicians have trouble delivering different messages to different audiences.

A challenging question is about why such large funding by China’s government for English language broadcasting? Why not for broadcasting in French or Spanish or German? Maybe there is something about what Niall Ferguson is saying on how Britain made the modern world:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qk_quPDD1vo

10. Shatterface

And social responsibility in privately owned media means either (1) responsibility to our commercial sponsors (2) responsibility to our advertising partners or (3) responsibility our company shareholders.

None of whom execute people

What is to be done?

When Murdoch and Google bow to Chinese political pressure and censor themselves its because they’re Evil Capitalists but when the Chinese State broadcasts its propaganda directly it will give us a ‘fresh perspective’ which will no doubt cover Chinese affairs better than Western media ever could.

Now, now Shatterface no need to get silly.

CCTV doesn’t execute people either.

And just because a person or individual like Murdoch or Newscorp does not execute people, it doesn’t mean we can simply ignore other things that they do that are democratically or morally objectionable.

And just because the Chinese government uses execution, and often in unjust or political ways, it doesn’t mean that we can therefore say nothing good about any aspect of Chinese culture.

It doesn’t mean for example that because of the use of execution by the Chinese Communist Party, Szechuan hotpot therefore tastes shit. It tastes bloody lovely, despite the fact the CCP officials are regularly seen enjoying it.

And there is some good journalism with a focus on good news with good broader social benefits in China; and we can learn lessons from it.

And China can learn lessons from us about the benefits of the state not killing its citizens.

Do please make an effort to disaggregated issues from each other. That is what helps make for constructive intelligent debate.

11 – I think the fact that the Chinese state systematically censors its media, to the point where editorials are entirely re-written by an appointed censor does mean that we can have serious misgivings about the value of a Chinese state broadcaster.

“we can have serious misgivings about the value of a Chinese state broadcaster”

As a news source, I agree entirely, but it’s always illuminating to have authoritative official insights into the currently prevailing official POV.


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Liberal Conspiracy

    China's new English media will have 19-times BBC's budget http://t.co/qqkw62kr

  2. paulstpancras

    China's new English media will have 19-times BBC's budget http://t.co/qqkw62kr

  3. Tim Sowula

    China's new English media will have 19-times BBC's budget http://t.co/qqkw62kr

  4. Mike

    China's new English media will have 19-times BBC's budget http://t.co/qqkw62kr

  5. Sunny Hundal

    Mind-boggling: China’s English-language media behemoth will have 19x BBC's budget http://t.co/6JIfPCFh

  6. Sunny Hundal

    Mind-boggling: China’s English-language media behemoth will have 19x BBC's budget http://t.co/6JIfPCFh

  7. DavidPWFreeborn

    Mind-boggling: China’s English-language media behemoth will have 19x BBC's budget http://t.co/6JIfPCFh

  8. DavidPWFreeborn

    Mind-boggling: China’s English-language media behemoth will have 19x BBC's budget http://t.co/6JIfPCFh

  9. Olivia Solon

    Mind-boggling: China’s English-language media behemoth will have 19x BBC's budget http://t.co/6JIfPCFh

  10. Christopher Mitchell

    Mind-boggling: China’s English-language media behemoth will have 19x BBC's budget http://t.co/6JIfPCFh

  11. Banter Marketing

    Mind-boggling: China’s English-language media behemoth will have 19x BBC's budget http://t.co/6JIfPCFh

  12. Dave Raybould

    China’s English-language media behemoth will have 19x BBC's budget http://t.co/a0jPNcB1 ….and probably be less of a propaganda outlet

  13. Aditya

    Mind-boggling: China’s English-language media behemoth will have 19x BBC's budget http://t.co/6JIfPCFh

  14. Ben Cobley

    Mind-boggling: China’s English-language media behemoth will have 19x BBC's budget http://t.co/6JIfPCFh

  15. Fee Free Fanalysis™

    Mind-boggling: China’s English-language media behemoth will have 19x BBC's budget http://t.co/6JIfPCFh

  16. Max Harlow

    Mind-boggling: China’s English-language media behemoth will have 19x BBC's budget http://t.co/6JIfPCFh

  17. Jason Brickley

    China’s new English media will have 19-times BBC’s budget http://t.co/CkUVIpQc

  18. leftlinks

    Liberal Conspiracy – China’s new English media will have 19-times BBC’s budget http://t.co/p36ImZy5

  19. Hannah Davies

    China's new English media will have 19-times BBC's budget http://t.co/qqkw62kr

  20. DavidPWFreeborn

    China’s new English media will have 19-times BBC’s budget- This looks incredible. China is taking soft-power seriously. http://t.co/EoLxFgzI

  21. Duncan Stott

    China’s new English media will have 19x BBC’s budget http://t.co/N1blK7dO via @libcon

  22. Paw Velling

    Mind-boggling: China’s English-language media behemoth will have 19x BBC's budget http://t.co/6JIfPCFh

  23. Kim Blake

    Mind-boggling: China’s English-language media behemoth will have 19x BBC's budget http://t.co/6JIfPCFh

  24. Aaron Peters

    http://t.co/dSY42WiY very interesting

  25. Bleam

    http://t.co/dSY42WiY very interesting

  26. kubra

    Mind-boggling: China’s English-language media behemoth will have 19x BBC's budget http://t.co/6JIfPCFh

  27. Paul Wood

    Mind-boggling: China’s English-language media behemoth will have 19x BBC's budget http://t.co/6JIfPCFh

  28. Abdul-Azim Ahmed

    Mind-boggling: China’s English-language media behemoth will have 19x BBC's budget http://t.co/6JIfPCFh

  29. Chris Schofield

    Chinese state media CCTV to start new English-language news organisation with 19 times the annual budget of BBC http://t.co/ODFqRxON

  30. saramo

    China’s new English media will have 19x BBC’s budget | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/ForCRoo9 via @libcon





Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.