China's CCTV builds hub in Washington, but answers questions about it only via e-mail, anonymously (updated).

Posted: 26 Jan 2012   Print   Send a link
Washington Post, 16 Jan 2012, Paul Farhi: "In a downtown [Washington] D.C. office building hard by a Starbucks and a busy construction site, China’s most ambitious effort to become a global power in English-language TV news is literally taking shape. For months, Chinese and American workers have been constructing a multi-floor TV studio complex on New York Avenue NW. Within a few weeks, China Central Television (CCTV) — the nation’s state-run international broadcaster — intends to originate news broadcasts produced by a staff of more than 60 journalists hired in recent weeks from NBC, Bloomberg TV, Fox News and other Western news organizations. The new Washington operation, its managers say, will be a hub of CCTV’s global news-gathering operations as the network launches a major expansion outside China to compete with international broadcasters such as CNN, the BBC and al-Jazeera. ... China experts say the country’s lofty media goals may collide with the communist government’s long history of official censorship and propaganda. China’s desire for international respect and stature raises a question for its journalists: Can they report without fear or favor, free from government manipulation and second-guessing? ... CCTV’s top adviser for its American news operation is Jim Laurie, a former NBC and ABC reporter who has been a consultant to several international broadcasters in Asia. Laurie referred questions to CCTV’s management."

Washington Post, 18 Jan 2012, Erik Wemple (blog) quoting Farhi on his story about CCTV: "I had a number of preliminary (off the record conversations) with people there. It was clear that they weren’t going to speak for the record unless I submitted my questions to them. Once I sent them, I got a reply pretty quickly--within 24 hours, I think. And, yeah, this was really a first for me. I don’t know how most reporters feel, but I don’t like to interview anyone this way."

Wall Street Journal, 17 Jan 2012, Laura Kusisto: "Chinese media operations obviously are starting out far behind Western media companies and have many more government-imposed constraints. But experts say the organizations like Xinhua are packaging content for sale to media outlets in developing countries, similar to the Associated Press or Reuters, but much cheaper. 'These state media entities don't operate under market principles. They're able to create, package and distribute at bargain-basement rates,' said Phelim Kine, Asia researcher for Human Rights Watch. The first U.S. show China Central TV plans to produce will focus on business and include dispatches from New York, according to a person familiar with the matter. 'Their intention-and it's a gradual step-by-step approach-is to be competitive with CNN International, BBC World News and Al Jazeera English,' the person said."

New York Times, 17 Jan 2012, Joseph S. Nye Jr.: "[F]or all the efforts to turn Xinhua and China Central Television into competitors for CNN and the BBC, there is little international audience for brittle propaganda. Now, in the aftermath of the Middle East revolutions, China is clamping down on the Internet and jailing human rights lawyers, once again torpedoing its soft power campaign."

Update: Weekly Standard, The Scrapbook, 30 Jan 2012 issue: "[If] it works for the BBC and Al Jazeera and Voice of America, why shouldn’t it work for the world’s largest Communist dictatorship? This sort of news is, of course, catnip to The Scrapbook. The Chinese seem to believe one of the enduring myths of modern democracy: namely, that the only thing a Great Power needs to succeed in the world is (a) power and (b) good public relations. It also proves that countless journalists can be bought, if the price is right."

Boston Globe, 20 Jan 2012, Alex Beam: "[R]ecently I spent a couple of weeks listening to China Radio International, Beijing’s answer to the BBC and the Voice of America. Sample idiocy: 'Thirty-five percent of the binding targets’ of the country’s National Human Rights Action Plan 'had been met ahead of time or exceeded.' Bravo."