Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Trying to Spread the Word

China is trying to fight back against bad press by creating an army of 100 journalists to lead state-run media.
They have been trained in the country's five top universities, including Beijing Foreign Studies University, Tsinghua University, Communication University of China, Remin University and Fudan University in Shanghai.
These hand-picked postgraduate students are taking a two-year masters in journalism program and then will staff such media outlets as Xinhua News Agency, China Central Television and China Daily.
Through their multidisciplinary training, the next stars in Chinese journalism are expected to extend the international reach of state-run media globally.
"The Communist Party's Central Committee has required agencies in charge of international communications to work more closely with the designated schools and, in return, the universities will get extra funding," said a recruiter at Beijing Foreign Studies University department of international journalism and communications.
The training program is part of a plan to spend between 35 billion yuan to 45 billion yuan ($5.12 billion-$6.58 billion) to expand state-run media outlets.
Xinhua is expected to get most of the funds as it recently launched its 24-hour satellite news network in an attempt to rival CNN and BBC, while China Daily is launching a US edition.
In November, Li Changchun, a senior official in charge of ideological affairs has urged state-run media outlets to expand their international reach and give China a greater voice on the world stage.
"To cultivate favourable international media coverage is an urgent and important task for internationally oriented news outlets to help the country's rapid social and economic development, further opening up and raising the country's status," he said.
Dr Zhang Zhian of Fudan University's journalism school says the 2008 Tibet riots triggered the government's concern that journalists needed to be better trained and media outlets had to expand due to what officials perceived as biased reports by foreign media.
"The unfriendly coverage in foreign media led [authorities] to discover that China is still insignificant in terms of a voice internationally," Zhang said. "To better tell the world about China, the country needs to train plenty of journalists specializing in international communication."
However, Hong Kong Baptist University professor Huang Yu doesn't think the initiative will bring much of a harvest in terms of effectively battling "biased" coverage.
"Fundamentally they can do little to change [their roles as propaganda institutions] because they have to serve the national interest," he said.
And for Zhang to describe foreign media reports as "unfriendly" is naive on his part. Journalism is not a form of public relations -- it is reporting the news as it happens. It is not about editorializing or writing for propaganda purposes. It is about describing the facts and adding quotes from the people who were there or are stakeholders of the event or situation.
For China to think throwing lots of money at media is going to make it a more powerful propaganda weapon maybe admirable, but hardly effective. Most people outside of China read Chinese-state media see right through it or are skeptical of it. While Chinese media has become more progressive in recent years, when it comes to nationally-sensitive issues, it is still fundamentally the same -- government-directed and for propaganda purposes.
And in the foreseeable future, that will never change.

1 comment:

gg said...

all media are self-centred. china no exception. it needs its own mouth piece much like cnn, bbc.