Foreign Policy Blogs

A Chinese Addition to U.S. Media

A recent New York Times article explores a quizzical addition to the U.S. media scene: Chinese state-run media. Several, in fact the largest, state-controlled media plan to spend a small fortune in order to expand overseas.

In the midst of what looks like a major crisis for journalists and readers,  media companies and outlets left and right are closing, downsizing, laying off and buying out staff, going online only, reducing the size of publications, and on and on. The Poynter Center points out that changes in the media industry are normal, citing recent changes at the venerable Seattle P-I and the Rocky Mountain News.

But there seems to be something different this time, with so many major publications making such major changes. Not to mention the global financial crisis. So it’s a little mysterious that the Chinese government not only has the money to spend billions of dollars pushing their media organizations into  mainstream U.S. society, but that they would choose to do it now.

According to the article:

But in China, a handful of state-controlled broadcasters and publishers have thrived, benefiting from China’s soaring economy. Many of the world’s biggest corporations, hoping to break into the Chinese market, have been spending millions of dollars on advertising each year trying to reach Chinese consumers through the country’s big newspapers and television networks.

The climate for media in the U.S., although not financially encouraging at the moment, is mostly independent and arguably remains a vital part of American democracy. Some call the media the “fourth leg” of our democratic system–after executive, legislative, and judicial. In general, the American public trusts what is published and broadcast in the media is factual, accurate, and unbiased, or at least without an agenda (for the most part). Those are the basic, lowest-level expectations the media generally has of itself as well.

However, adding Chinese state-run media into the mix could be a recipe for the spread of undetected misinformation.

According to the New York Times article:

The country’s increasingly wealthy media giants, which operate under China’s censorship rules and according to its propaganda motives, are trying to acquire international media assets, to open more overseas news bureaus and to publish and broadcast more broadly in English and other languages. Many of them have already announced plans to hire English-speaking Chinese and foreign media specialists.

….

The media outlets planning to expand overseas include China Central Television, or CCTV; Xinhua, the state-run news agency; People’s Daily, the news organ of the Communist Party; and the Shanghai Media Group.

In the end, it’s not surprising that the goal of this media expansion is not primarily to disseminate news and information for the sake of the public good. There is a much less lofty objective.

The New York Times says:

In an essay this month, China’s propaganda director, Liu Yunshan, wrote, “It has become an urgent strategic task for us to make our communication capability match our international status.” He added, “In this modern era, who gains the advanced communication skills, the powerful communication capability and whose culture and value is more widely spread is able to more effectively influence the world.”

 

Author

Genevieve Belmaker
Genevieve Belmaker

Genevieve Belmaker is a freelance journalist and contributing editor with The Epoch Times (www.theepochtimes.com). She also contributes to Quill, the magazine of the Society of Professional Journalists and Poynter.org. Her blog on journalism is http://artofreportage.com.

Genevieve has traveled throughout the U.S., Asia, Central America, Israel and the West Bank for reporting assignments, including major investigative reports on the recovery of New Orleans, the encroaching presence of China in Costa Rica and Nicaragua, the dangerous import of melamine-contaminated milk into the U.S. and settlement outposts in the West Bank. She regularly reports on issues related to journalism, and the work of journalists.

She holds a BA from the University of Southern California in International Relations, and has been a member of several prominent national and international professional media organizations, including the Society of Professional Journalists, Investigative Reporters and Editors, the International Women’s Media Foundation, the New York Press Club, and the Newswomen’s Club of New York. She lives in Jerusalem, Israel with her husband and son.

Areas of Focus:
New Media; Journalism; Culture and Society

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