China launches global English-language television channel

The news agency run by China's ruling Communist Party launched a global English-language television channel today as part of efforts to expand its influence abroad.

Experts say China's media expansion also results from unhappiness with much of the international coverage of sensitive events in China such as Tibet and human rights. The government has accused international media organisations of being biased and focused on negative news.

China Xinhua News Network Corp. (CNC) began broadcasting its first English TV service, CNC World, around the clock today, including news segments, feature stories, weather updates and special bulletins, the official Xinhua News agency said.

"The English service will provide international and China news with a Chinese perspective to global audiences," CNC President Wu Jincai said at a news conference.

CNC World has begun broadcasting in Hong Kong and will continue to expand to Europe, North America and Africa by the year-end, he said.

CNC World will have about 70% international news and 30% news about China - with a wide range of topics such as breaking news, travel shows, sports, and weather, Wu said.

Although critics are sceptical of the ability of China's news industry to compete abroad, Yuen-ying Chan, director of the University of Hong Kong's Journalism and Media Studies Centre, said the potential impact of China's media expansion should not be downplayed.

"At a time when western media is retreating ... China could be flooding the world with its perspective, giving the country a boost of soft power" said Chan. "With a lot of funding and improvements in its reporting, this new expansion should not be written off."

In recent years, China has announced multibillion-dollar plans to raise the country's profile by expanding Xinhua, state broadcaster China Central Television and the People's Daily, the flagship newspaper of the Communist Party.

"As the country gains more prominence and confidence on the world stage, China naturally wants to spread its message to the world," said Yu Guoming, a journalism professor at People's University in Beijing. "This expansion abroad will help outsiders better understand China."

CNC World will be broadcast internationally by satellite, cable, cell phone and the Internet, and its US service will be available on cable networks beginning Oct. 1, Xinhua said.

Xinhua, a ministry-level body under the administration of the State Council, China's Cabinet, said it is transforming itself into a multimedia, worldwide news agency.

All three state media outlets enjoy top-level party support and funding, along with virtual monopolies in certain sectors of their domestic markets.

CNC also looks to profit in the coming decade by partnering with local networks to set up 30 channels around the world that will feature a variety of programmes, Zhao Peng, vice director of the CNC's administrative board, said at the news conference.

"We are doing a profitable business. In 10 years, the global news industry is predicted to expand 30 times from what it is now and we see the potential," Zhao said.

Last year, CCTV began a 24-hour channel airing in 22 Arabic-speaking countries, reaching a total population of nearly 300 million people.

Despite China's rapid economic growth and rising global influence, there has not been a freeing of the media in the country. China has retained its authoritarian one-party political system with strict limits on freedom of speech and civil and political life.

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