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CCTV America and Beyond

Over the last few years, CCTV has been signaling expanding its footprint around the globe. On February 6, 2012, CCTV America officially launched with a new production studio based in Washington, D.C.. So far, I have watched a number of CCTV America reports, and I must say, for the American market, they are good. The reporters are American and the nuance is too, American. Obviously the narrative is Chinese. (This article contains a video that auto-plays, which I don’t know how to turn off.)

Below is a CCTV America segment interviewing a local resident from Muscatine, Iowa, who recalls fondly of Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping’s visit the first time around. This is obviously a balance, because the typical American narrative in the U.S. media tend to prefer confrontation between the two countries. My take is that China’s editorial will likely to seek mutual benefits and to promote friendly relations.

CNN is already in China, so CCTV America is really a step in this catching up.

With economic development, China’s footprint is becoming bigger. After researching into CCTV’s recent expansions, it does feel that way.

CCTV Africa recently launched as well, based out of Nairobi, Kenya. Reporters and anchors are also from the continent of Africa. And I think China’s strategy there is wise, as reporter, KAREN MBUGUA, writes:

Africa has always been portrayed as the problem-stricken continent grappling with famine, debt, corruption and civil wars.

However thanks to an initiative by the China Central Television (CCTV), 700million viewers in over 170 countries can now get the real picture of Africa through a 24hr news channel that focuses on African news and views.

Their introduction below:

CCTV Arabic has been broadcasting for a number of years now. Segment below is a Chinese anchor speaking that language:

Here is in Russian:

CCTV also broadcasts in Spanish and French.

Unsurprising, there is a great deal of anxiety in the U.S. when CCTV America’s launch was announced. But there is also a huge swath of Americans disillusioned with their media and hence, there is indeed a market for CCTV to tap. Perhaps that reality is best expressed by an American who got exposure to CCTV while in Shanghai:

George Reid wrote:
I was in Shanghai for two months teaching and CCTV was the only English speaking channel we could get in our Chinese apartment and it was quite interesting stuff. They reported on parts of the world that our networks ignore (Asia, South America). Lots of interviews with Chinese scholars and business folks who were fairly candid at times. Of course, they rarely mentioned any kind of unrest and clearly the perspective was China centered. It was good to view the US on the periphery of things for a while. I’d be happy to have this option and would gladly give up about 40 other channels of pure crap for a few PRC channels.

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  1. zack
    March 20th, 2012 at 01:39 | #1

    excellent news (pun intended)

  2. March 20th, 2012 at 05:25 | #2

    Who was the narrator in the CCTV America clip? The accent is more British than American.

  3. March 20th, 2012 at 06:01 | #3

    If CCTV is smart, it should upload news clips to Youtube, like AP, RT, and Al Jazeera does. Otherwise it won’t get on google news and that’s about the only way to build viewership among the young. Cable news is old school now.

  4. pug_ster
    March 20th, 2012 at 06:52 | #4


    I agree. I also think that CCTV should focus on news on the local regions and not about China. I think most English speaking audiences don’t care much about China and would probably want news about the US or Europe, from the Chinese perspective. They should also start having some news programs.

  5. Charles Liu
    March 20th, 2012 at 10:12 | #5

    Well, one distinction that will come up is the fact CCTV is state-sponsored media. I don’t really watch CCTV, so please enlighten me on both reality and perception of this implication.

  6. zack
    March 20th, 2012 at 10:26 | #6

    @Charles Liu
    al jazeera english and the BBC and Australia’s ABC are also ‘state sponsored media’ and all adopt the government perspective accordingly.

  7. March 20th, 2012 at 11:06 | #7

    I’ve seen cctv and though I really like some of their shows such as Dialogue, China 24 and Discussion which center around discussions among experts or laymen, many of their shows must employ better hosts and producers. Many of the hosts are not very clear speakers and poor at English. Some producers look to be amateurs. Some Chinese guests also have English speaking difficulties but it will be hard to replace them because it is hard to find proficient English speakers who are also speaking on behalf of a more sino-centric perspective. Maybe they can employ more overseas Chinese like Chinese Americans to do the jobs.

  8. March 20th, 2012 at 11:10 | #8

    I think it would be indeed worthwhile for CCTV to establish its own Youtube channel. Following link is a playlist for bunch of reports by CCTV America:


    The link I had in the OP for CCTV America shows the following members for their production team:

    • Anchoring Team
    Mike Walter, Elaine Reyes,Phillip Yin, Michelle Makori

    • Reporting Team
    Nina Donaghy, Jessica Stone, and Sean Callebs, Wang Guan, Zou Yun

    • Regional Correspondent Team
    Michelle Begue in Colombia, Stephen Gibbs in Brazil, Morgan Neill in Mexico, Dan Collyns in Peru, and Nitza Perez in Miami

    On Charles’ point about the fact that CCTV is state-sponsored, I do agree this is a theme the Western media use to defame it – and truthfully, as zack wrote, these other Western media are state-sponsored too.

    Whether CCTV is able to overcome that, I think, will largely depend on the quality of its reporting.

  9. March 20th, 2012 at 11:12 | #9

    CCTV America is much better. You should check it out when you get a chance. The Youtube playlist link I provided in the above comment gives you an idea how far CCTV has come.

  10. Charles Liu
    March 20th, 2012 at 18:42 | #10


    Good point about BBC, Zack

  11. zack
    March 21st, 2012 at 02:41 | #11

    @Charles Liu
    indeed, i’ll go further, what a lot of western media consistently ignore and disparage is that China’s local media uncover corruption as real journalists are supposed to uncover corruption; can the same be said for cable news journalists who’ve strategically been ignoring the OWS protests these past few months? Only RT has been covering OWS, whereas there’s a conscious collective effort by the media barons to stifle OWS before it grows to actually change and challenge the system. No, what i can guarantee is that your average western media will consistently describe China’s media as, and i quote “mouthpiece of the Chinese communist party’ as if that somehow delegitimizes what CCTV and CNC World have to say (and thereby preserving their own market share in the global market).

  12. March 21st, 2012 at 07:55 | #12

    Couldn’t agree more.

    I know they have come a long way, globally. But the version they’re still showing us in East Asia, is still the same one with all the problems Melektaus described. Besides the less than stellar English, the programming is also pretty low tech — 1990s looking sets, poor lighting, ugly flashscreens. I’ll give one more example, nowadays almost every other news network uses live, split-screen interviews whether the guest is in a studio thousands of miles away or sitting in his home facing a webcam, CCTV still uses a voice-feed mostly– and when they do the feed is almost always unintelligible because of a) poor English and b) line static. These kind of standards may be adequate for the China market, but if they want to expand their reach into the rest of Asia, CCTV needs a complete remake.

    Same with their website. Need to add bandwidth and hire a designer. Don’t know about you all, but the site looks rather ugly to me. Not sleek at all.

  13. March 21st, 2012 at 20:03 | #13

    I agree with most of the comments on the weakness of CCTV news in China. Chinese entertainment programs are now very competitive, like I have said they are now a force to be reckoned with in Asia. This is due to the competitiveness in China’s market, if you need to get ahead you have to be really good. However, CCTV news has a virtual monopoly (local news channels do exist in China though) so they can keep on putting out outdated, poorly set up news program. I can only think of two ways of solving the problems.

    1. Find a really outstanding CEO and revamp the entire news department.
    2. Open the market up and allow other companies to bid for news spot.

  14. March 21st, 2012 at 21:59 | #14


    3. Replicate the formula in CCTV America and get the right editorial staff in place.

  15. March 21st, 2012 at 22:30 | #15

    I think your suggestion is same as my no.1 where the CEO would have to revamp the entire news department (get the right people in).

  16. March 21st, 2012 at 22:40 | #16

    Ha! Indeed.

  17. Yide-angle
    April 3rd, 2012 at 14:24 | #17

    silentvoice :
    If CCTV is smart, it should upload news clips to Youtube, like AP, RT, and Al Jazeera does. Otherwise it won’t get on google news and that’s about the only way to build viewership among the young. Cable news is old school now.

    I second it. That’s how I get to watch AJ, RT, etc. I tried to find if there is line-up on Comcast for CCTV America in the area where I live and realized after a while that it is only available in the DC area for now.
    They should really put it on YouTube. Then you could get your viewership thousands, if not millions fold.
    Just realized when I read some more comments here, one with a link that points to the CCTV America channel on YouTube. Watching it now! 🙂
    p.s. Thanks for posting the link!

  18. Hong Konger
    April 4th, 2012 at 09:14 | #18

    Thanks yinyang. It’s easy to find if you have that link. But if you don’t, it’s hard.
    If the average guy types in “CCTV” or “CCTV China” into Youtube, he just gets a bunch of videos about closed circuit TV.
    The problem is CCTV does not have its own channel. That channel you so kindly linked to is a private one run by some guy named Andrew Smith.
    I wonder if CCTV doesn’t have an official Youtube channel because Youtube was blocked in China for a while. I’m not sure if it is still blocked. What sites are allowed and not allowed without a VPN changes all the time, and I just can’t keep track. Honestly, I don’t bother, since we can see them all here in Hong Kong.
    CCTV is much easier to get here. I have to admit that I watched it for a while, but less these days.
    For me, the problem is not the production values. It’s that it still feels propaganda-y. And there are often big news events that the local HK stations will cover and CCTV will not.
    I can’t comment too much on CCTV America though.

  19. Hong Konger
    April 4th, 2012 at 09:20 | #19
  20. April 4th, 2012 at 11:48 | #20

    @Hong Konger
    Thanks for that PBS take on CCTV America. In general, I think PBS, NPR are the best media and of the highest journalistic standard in America, but I was surprised at how biased that report was. Here are couple of reader comments from PBS I thought were spot on:


    I am surprised to hear such suspicion coming from PBS, which is supposed to keep an open-minded approach. I have been a guest at CCTV several times. The broadcasts that I have been on are live. No one came or wrote to me before the show what I should or should not say about China. I am disappointed that this story has more of a negative approach about a field that China decided to enter and compete rather than being more positive that the Chinese volunteered to compete in this Western-dominated sector. I sense some kind of bias, and that it is coming from PBS is the saddest part of the story, I think.


    I personally, have never seen a CCTV broadcast. Yet one thing immediately stood out for me in this piece.
    Western, corporate media proclaim — without even bating an eye, that they are ‘objective’ and ‘free’.
    There is not even supposed to be a ounce of scepticism about this accepted mantra from a Western (American) audience.
    The ever-subtle and even insidious indoctrination of Western audiances about the ‘purity’ and ‘objectivity’ of news and information in the Western media is so widely accepted, that it doesn’t even merit a question about its supposed veracity.

    Yet, I dare anyone to find any — and I mean any — positive or objective reporting about a Socialist system, or any even close to objective reporting from a Marxist perspective in the corporate media.
    Western media is, for all intents and purposes is just a propaganda mouth-piece for the established Capitalist order.
    The only debates and arguments consist of minor nuances in between right-wing conservative , and right wing — less conservative views. Those are the options both in the news and in the ballot boxes.
    The endless carping about how ‘controlled’ the media is from China, is of course just one more ‘wink and a nod’ to the Western audience to watch out for anything outside this box.
    For when it comes to controlling the news and the media, let it come from ‘us’, and no one need to be the wiser.
    That is the way ‘we’ like it.

    Gustavo Corral

    First let me start by saying that I actually watch CCTV now and then. ( they also have some nice links in case you want to learn Chinese ).
    Yes, I do not see repeated mentions of Tibet et al hot button issues, but I do see occasional criticisms of China but couched in a softer tone than the skewer-thy-neighbor philosophy of Western media outlets. On international (i.e. non-China ) news they are just as critical as other outlets ( e.g. they continue to cover events in Syria in the properly negative light ).

    They also do pretty independent business reporting of China and explore the different regions of China. I think U.S. journalists are expecting a drumbeat of human rights abuses and when they don’t get it they complain of censorship. We have to recognize that Chinese people themselves are not as aggressive ( yes, I will get flamed on this ) as Americans and many support their system. So all in all the tone is different because the type of stories about China they want to explore are different.
    ( as an aside, let me say : where has our democracy led us ? To pander to every minority or interest group to the point of bankruptcy. Rarely do I see news organizations do the legwork to for example analyze state and local budgets and rich contractor deals, while dedicating atmospheres of air time to abortion, candidate missteps, poise and such )

    As other people here have said, our own news organizations ( e.g. MSNBC, some shows on PBS like N2K ) have their own biases and edit shows too ( a lot of this editing is done by the choice of guests they invite over ). So people who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.

  21. Yide-angle
    April 5th, 2012 at 09:29 | #21

    A channel on YouTube is a start. But ultimately they need to provide live streaming like AJ and RT do to increase their exposure and create a foot hold in the main stream media market. That’s how AJ and to a certain degree, RT, have managed to create a name for themselves. I think they would reap a huge reward with a good mobile streaming app on iPhone and Android. Then look to adapt that app to GoogleTV/AppleTV. To get a channel added to cable or sat TV line-up seem to me an expensive, time-consuming bureaucratic process. However, you only need a few good app developers to get streaming video online. And it will be ubiquitous with no (or much) scaling cost and geological restriction.

  22. Yide-angle
    April 9th, 2012 at 09:15 | #22

    Hong Konger :

    If the average guy types in “CCTV” or “CCTV China” into Youtube, he just gets a bunch of videos about closed circuit TV.

    I hope they do something about the acronym CCTV–as Hong Konger pointed out, if you search for CCTV on YouTube, or just google it on the web, most of the entries come back are related to Close Circuit TV. They have used CNTV in some cases, which is a good alternative, but I don’t know if they are going to completely change the naming of CCTV to CNTV.

  23. Joyce Lau
    April 12th, 2012 at 06:00 | #23

    I agree with Silentvoice that image counts, and that CCTV’s is often not great. But sets, graphics and audio / video feeds can be fixed easily. CCTV has the money for better equipment, designers, consultants, etc. I’m pretty confident this will improve with time.

    I’m more concerned with “software.” Setting aside issues about independence, their website is not up-to-date on world news.

    I was in Thailand yesterday when there was a tsunami warning. All the worried hotel guests gathered in the lobby went to the BBC and CNN online, both of which had updates every few minutes. In a real-life situation where I needed quick information, it did not occur to me to go to CCTV. The next morning, after the scare was over, the CCTV English site was still a half-day behind. Now, it’s somewhat updated, but there’s a warning that says ‘Waves up to 4m expected to reach Thai Andaman coast at 6 p.m.’ But that’s 6 pm yesterday, not today — the “deadline” came and went with no big waves. But if I didn’t know that, I’d be working on incorrect information.

    I spend alot of time on the news wires for work, and I’ve noticed that CCTV will often credit China Daily or Xinhua for stories that are taken almost exactly from somewhere like Reuters, only the original source will not be credited. I’m not sure if this is mere carelessness or if it’s an attempt to make Chinese media look like they’re doing more original reporting.

    In any case, CCTV is not (yet) producing enough of their own, good world news reportage. If they want to be like CNN or BBC, they need to give non-Chinese consumers a good reason to go to them for non-Chinese news.

    Cosmetic stuff is easy to fix. High-quality content will take more time.

    I wonder if a small group of online editors working on shifts, updating the CCTV site from the news wires, would make a big difference. Opening a DC newsroom and hiring experienced journalists from all over the world — these are good moves to start.

  24. April 12th, 2012 at 08:11 | #24

    I think Western media is very much about “breaking news” – due to the fact that such attracts more eyeballs and hence bigger advertising revenue. It is arguable whether that is necessarily “better” for society.

    CCTV as a news media organization just doesn’t operate like that – partly because they have been without much competition until this last decade – and now they are driven into the ad revenue model too.

    In terms of international news, CCTV is light years ahead of Western media, because it covers international issues much more objectively.

    For example, the latest BRICS summit in India pushed for their own development bank, but this news was virtually non-existent in the U.S. media. This news was self-censored out in the U.S..

    Having the complete picture of the world should be seen as the “High-quality content.”

  25. Joyce Lau
    April 12th, 2012 at 10:07 | #25

    Hi yinyang, I think all news media should have good, fast breaking news coverage. It doesn’t matter whether it’s Western or Asian.

    I know that media is a business, but I think most journalists cover major events because they feel it’s newsworthy. (A good news operation should have a division of church and state, between ad sales and editorial coverage).

    When I was in Thailand, we were desperate for information since the hotel said little more than “don’t panic” and “stay in the lobby”. Some conflicting information worried us more. Local Thai websites were worthless, at least in English.

    It was the BBC and CNN that told us important information in real time, like whether there were aftershocks (there were), whether the airport was closed (it was), and whether other people in our area were being evacuated (they were). In the hallway, I met other tourists debating what to do, and whether we should try to grab a last-minute taxi to the airport that night. They had the BBC on in their room, and reports on the airport closure helped us make an informed choice to stay put. (Thankfully, several hours later, the warning was lowered and nothing happened — a huge relief after the deadly 2004 tsunami).

    We’re beginning to see this sort of coverage improve in China. When the horrible Sichuan earthquake hit in 2008, Chinese journalists jumped on planes to the disaster site, and some did so before receiving official approval. They were following the right instincts. Within hours, the country and the world knew what was happening and where to send aid. If you had family in Sichuan — even if you did not — you wanted to know what was going on.

    I’m not saying that meetings, politics, diplomacy are unimportant. They should also be covered, along with more thoughtful analysis that goes beyond the disaster of the day.

    But if CCTV wants to make an impact internationally, they have to improve their worldwide news coverage — not for ad revenue reasons, but so they are seen as a reliable source.

    To be fair, there is breaking news on their websites and TV programs — I just don’t feel it’s fast enough for the Internet age. I’m not trying to be unduly harsh – CCTV is relatively new to the international game and I think they will improve.

  26. Joyce Lau
    April 13th, 2012 at 03:20 | #26

    CCTV’s director of international news will be speaking in HK on Wednesday. I just checked my schedule, but I’m unfortunately stuck in a meeting that afternoon and can’t go. Otherwise I would. But if I hear of any developments, I’ll let you guys know.

  27. April 13th, 2012 at 11:54 | #27

    @Joyce Lau
    Certainly, please keep us posted about CCTV. As to your comments above, I am in general agreement. Those real time information are critical, as was in your case in determining what to do.

    Have you gotten a chance to see some segments produced out of CCTV America yet? Too bad they don’t have a youtube channel (yet). The comment I left above has a ‘playlist’ with some such segments. I think they were quite good.

  28. Joyce Lau
    April 14th, 2012 at 06:34 | #28

    Thanks, yinyang. I just watched three of them — two on Xi’s visit to Iowa, and the one on U.S. trash being “recycled” in China.
    The production quality is better than the CCTV I’ve seen here in HK (though I have to admit that I’m not a regular viewer, so maybe it’s improved recently).
    If I was sitting in an American living room and didn’t know they were CCTV, I’d easily mistake them for a normal U.S. broadcast. The scripts had simple, clear writing, the delivery was native (well, they hired what looks like a blonde American lady) and the stories were relatively interesting. They didn’t have that propaganda sound that some Chinese media has.
    Honestly, I find these videos of better quality than much of China’s print media, which is what I consume more of.
    These were not hard-hitting or controversial news, but features. Still, features are as important as breaking news, as you point out. It will be interesting to see how they do in the future.

  29. April 14th, 2012 at 22:46 | #29

    Hey Joyce, wondering if could elaborate on this a bit:

    They didn’t have that propaganda sound that some Chinese media has.

    The narratives on CCTV are government approved, so I can understand the “propaganda” labeling.

    On the other hand, the Western media presumes “democracy” and “freedom” as ‘good’ while anything less is to be undermined. Or they espouse the narrative that ‘human rights’ essentially boil down to political right. Such a right is paramount and universal regardless of circumstance.

    Hopefully this doesn’t come across as too loaded. You probably understand where I am going with this, especially if you’ve been reading HH.

    So, that said, wouldn’t you say there is a collective propaganda in the Western press regarding the universality of these values/rights?

    As you said in another comment, certain things we will agree while others we may hold different perspectives. I find that very reasonable. And I should welcome you here to HH too in case I haven’t done so. 🙂

    That said, what would you say towards labeling Western media, despite being ‘free’ is propagandistic?

  30. Joyce Lau
    April 15th, 2012 at 01:27 | #30

    That’s a big question! I’m going to bite off a small chew-able chunk, or else this will be the world’s longest blog answer.
    When I said “propaganda-y” here, I wasn’t talking about serious political issues like democracy and freedom. (That is a WHOLE other blog post). I was just talking about the way the shows felt.
    Viewers are very smart and intuitive about whether media is authentic or propaganda. It’s hard for me to explain. I’ll try to use a non-political example.

    Let’s say you want to buy a new camera.
    You see a glossy supplement sponsored by ABC Company. It’s got hundreds of words in cheesy writing extolling the wonderful virtues of all ABC cameras. But it doesn’t have many details, and doesn’t mention other brands. A light will go off in your head: “This is an advertisement.” (When these are written like fake articles, we call them ad-vertorials). You take it with a grain of salt.

    Whereas, if you see a review by well-known tech writer who honestly lists the pros and cons of four different cameras — from ABC, Canon, Olympus and Nikon — you pay more attention. If this tech writer comes across as someone you would personally like — a photo geek who is clever, funny, well-spoken, critical, you will trust him even more.

    Let’s say this writer concludes that Canon is the best. You read up another, independent camera review that says a similar thing. Then you go to photography blogs that debate the Canon’s good and bad points. You feel that you looked at many different sources and made your own decision. You don’t want to feel force-fed by the ABC advertorial.

    Right now, much mainland media feels like that ABC advertorial. It can be stiff, forced and stilted. The
    delivery is deadpan — TV anchors don’t seem to chat or joke or react. The scripts are often long, wordy and boring.

    There’s a sameness to it — I’ve seen China Daily, People’s Daily, Xinhua and CCTV run stories that are almost word-for-word identical, whereas you are pretty sure to get different fare between competing private newspapers, TV stations, websites, etc. in a freer system.

    And please note that I don’t mean a Western system. While they aren’t as prominent, there are plenty of interesting media systems across Asia and the world.

    My original point was that these CCTV America videos don’t have that “mainland propaganda” feel to them. Who-ever is producing them has gone a good job of giving them a more natural vibe. You don’t feel like they came from something called the Propaganda Department.

  31. Joyce Lau
    April 15th, 2012 at 01:47 | #31

    To answer your question about whether Western media is propaganda — no, I don’t think it is.

    It’s definitely flawed. But is it not singularly controlled by one source like mainland Chinese media. (This isn’t my personal opinion. The government is very open about the fact that it views the media as part of state propaganda, and journalists as de facto spokespeople).

    Whereas most Western (and HK, and Japanese, and Indian) journalists see themselves as voices outside the system.

    There is a huge variety to Western media because nobody has to check in with the government before they print or broadcast. A guy on FOX thinks Obama is an idiot, but the guy on CNN thinks he’s great. The Economist is high-brow, the Daily Mail low-brow. I’m sure the White House was unhappy about WikiLeaks, but every major newspaper in the West went with it anyway.

    As for democracy, freedom and human rights — I think most journalists cover these as good things because we genuinely believe these are good things, as I do. It’s not because we got a black and white government directive saying we must.

    People who have freedom, rights and democracy generally don’t want to give them up. As you know — since you live there — Americans have an incredibly broad range of political opinion. But very few people would give up their right to choose their leaders, and the media reflects this public view.

    But if you want to write a blog saying “I don’t like democracy” or “I think human rights are overrated” you are free to do so. If you wanted to open your own TV station and say on the evening news that you want to abolish the presidential elections, you can. It’s just that almost nobody will agree with you.

  32. pug_ster
    April 15th, 2012 at 08:44 | #32

    @Joyce Lau

    Sorry, Democracy is not end for all for government’s problems. Why are we voting for this person or that person in the first place? Well, because this person made certain promises that he will do this or do that, IE, having lower taxes, ending wars, fixing deficits, etc… The problem is that is by the time this person gets voted to the office, this politican does not deliver and people get frustrated by this. Why not just get rid of the middle man, get rid of the voting process and get a concensus of the demands of the people and the government will enact on it, regardless whom you want vote for? That’s what happened in China. Despite that people couldn’t have a chance to vote, people there have alot of support for the government because the government listens to the demands of the people.

  33. Joyce Lau
    April 15th, 2012 at 19:00 | #33

    Hi Pugster — Please don’t put arguments in my mouth. While I am for democracy — and I think it’s better than a non-democracy — nowhere did I say that it could solve all government problems. There’s no perfect political system. It’s a ridiculous statement.

    The main point of this thread: yinyang and I were discussing how CCTV and Chinese media can improve and sound less like state propaganda.

  34. pug_ster
    April 15th, 2012 at 19:20 | #34

    @Joyce Lau

    No, I am not putting arguments in your mouth. Didn’t you spend the last 3 paragraphs boasting at why “democracy, freedom and human rights” is so good things that journalists believe the things as you do? I find what you said about this, as a journalist, troubling. Isn’t the job as a journalist to tell the viewers what you see, and not try to interject your opinions into it? Because if you start interjecting your opinions into it, you are not better than a propagandist. Another thing, to say that other journalists to believe that democracy is great as you do is totally bogus.

  35. April 15th, 2012 at 22:11 | #35

    Joyce, I agree with you that CCTV is not nearly as sophisticated as the Western press in appearing “objective” and “free.”

    However, my view is that Chinese media are in fact much more honest; they generally make a distinction between ‘opinion,’ ‘propaganda,’ and ‘news.’

    I would say, the Chinese media are clearly censored more, but the censorship is generally related to subversion speech (against the government ) and separatist speech.

    Western press is much more balanced when covering domestic issues, especially those affecting significantly dominant political constituents. But this balance is already problematic, because as we see in the U.S., the political climate is ultra-polarized.

    However, when it comes to minority and foreign issues, Western press is one heck of a propaganda machine.

    1. Defaming China
    My analysis based on the top ‘China’ topics from PEW’s coverage index:

    Melektaus’ look at Tibet and Sudan

    2. Attributing others behavior as evil while white-washing self’s


    3. Willful censorship of inconvenient truth

    FAIR (Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting) pointing out Afghan children’s death ignored by Western media

    4. Clever use of emotive words to subliminally tarnish others in the Western press


  36. pug_ster
    April 16th, 2012 at 21:06 | #36


    I thought this article is interesting. What do you get with American companies and Chinese Media have in companies, paid advertisement. Although I don’t believe David Barboza’s propaganda piece that there are many, American Media companies who does this kind of crap, probably much more than in China. I mean, look at many of the American magazines out there, why do they favor one kind of product and not the other?

    Besides, this is consumerism propaganda (aka capitalism,) not political propaganda like what we see in fixed news.

  37. Joyce Lau
    April 16th, 2012 at 23:07 | #37

    Of course all media companies have to make money — through ads sales, circulation, etc. That does not necessarily undermine their coverage.
    In good international companies, there is a division of church and state between the ads and editorial.
    I’ve been at the IHT / NYT Co. for seven years, and I have never been asked to write favorably about an advertiser or potential advertiser. ABC company can buy an ad saying how great their new camera is, but our tech writer is perfectly in his rights to say the new ABC camera is a piece of junk.
    Work was also pretty much “clean” when I was at the South China Morning Post, a HK newspaper. I was mostly left alone, though a boss would sometimes drop off materials from “a friend”, with the hint that I should write something nice about this “friend.”

    I cannot say the same for my friends who work in Chinese media here — in the state press, the corporate buying, selling and trading of coverage seems to be unabashed. One friend has the unfortunate job of writing falsely glowing articles about hotels and restaurants, in return for those companies buying ads and doing favors for a state-run newspaper. It would be inconceivable that she would write the kind of restaurant review you would see in a typical Western magazine, where the critic says the salad was overpriced and the waiter was rude.

    At press conferences, there are often separate press packs for foreign and Chinese journalists, and not because of language. The Chinese ones have “hong bau” or “laisee” tucked inside.

    Since I actually am Chinese and Cantonese-speaking, I am often mistaken for being in the wrong category. Then I have to go through the embarrassing action of returning their “gift”. For anyone working in major international media, taking a bribe or “favor” is an immediate and fire-able offense. I don’t take bribes because I am honest, but also because it’s not worth losing my job.

    Another friend working for Chinese state TV was more open about the situation. She said she couldn’t wait to be transfered to the Beijing newsroom, because there would be more opportunities for “gifts” from “sponsors”.

    You’re right that this is not political pressure — it’s corporate. And there are of course exceptional Chinese journalists who are honest and critical. I heard that reporters at Caixin are not allowed to take “gifts.” But the amount of control that private PR people have over Chinese journalists — particularly young, new journalists — is pretty unnerving.

    There are Western media that also trade coverage — usually smaller or “softer” magazines that cover stuff like travel, beauty and fashion — which will often let their journalists go on free trips, or spend a few free days at a spa to tell people how awesome it is etc. But I don’t think they are taking outright cash. And I think most major news organizations are relatively clean. And I have never seen this “trade” as engrained or as much as I do among my Chinese journalist friends.

    It’s yet another thing that I hope can be improved in the future — if Chinese media wants to compete globally, they will have to produce more honest coverage. I don’t entirely blame individual Chinese journalists, since this is the way they are taught, and the way they are told to operate by their bosses.

  38. Joyce Lau
    April 16th, 2012 at 23:11 | #38

    It’s important that ads are clearly identifiable as ads.

    When a viewer sees a full-page glossy photo of an ABC camera, or a Google ad pop-up of an ABC camera, he knows it’s an advertisement and that the company is paying money to promote its product.

    But when a viewer reads a column by a trusted tech columnist, he assumes that it is not an ad, and that the columnist is expressing an honest opinion about whether ABC camera is any good.

    The problem comes when what looks like a column is actually an ad in disguise. That is where the corruption comes in.

    But ads in and of themselves are fine. After all, we live in a world of advertisements.

  39. Joyce Lau
    April 16th, 2012 at 23:15 | #39

    Back to Barboza’s story. He’s just as critical of Western luxury companies paying for coverage in Chinese media. So it’s not like Western elements are innocent here, either.

    As a journalist, my concern is that coverage is honest and fair. I don’t really care which country it’s from. If Western firms are playing the Chinese “hongbau” game too, that makes me really sad.

  40. P.I.
    April 16th, 2012 at 23:21 | #40

    Wow Joyce thanks for that. very interesting and insightful, and parallels exactly what my friends in the Chinese media have told me. They also told me they think things are getting worse (more gifts and money), rather than better.

    “American Media companies who does this kind of crap, probably much more than in China.”

    Sounds like this is just what you want to believe, more than anything happening in reality sadly……..

  41. April 17th, 2012 at 00:33 | #41

    @Joyce Lau
    I have no doubt what you observed about the red envelopes is perhaps rampant in Chinese media – and Chinese society in general. There’s been a rise in doctors in China being attacked by patients because of corruption in that industry too. This habit is pervasive in Chinese society today, and it’s going to take a while to subside.

    Anyways, despite the lack of such corruption (imo, there are others even more egregious forms), there nevertheless are the types of propaganda (4) I listed in my prior comment.

    How do you explain that?

  42. pug_ster
    April 17th, 2012 at 10:09 | #42

    @Joyce Lau



    I thought this sinica podcast and this blog post is pretty interesting.

    I don’t think it is a big deal for these journalists getting these ‘laisee.’ Let’s face it, many of these Chinese journalists don’t get paid very well, so these guys are usually compensated for their travels and meals. I doubt that these people get anything more than $50 USD. They are not asked to write anything that is favorable to them, or is there any criteria to exclude any of these Chinese Journalists. Third, don’t foreign press get these ‘press packs’ too with goodies? It might not be money, but something that has monetary value.

  43. Joyce Lau
    April 19th, 2012 at 09:15 | #43

    It’s a big deal, Pug_ster. Bribery is bribery. I’ve heard every excuse and justification in the book — “everyone’s doing it” being #1.
    Maybe a decade ago — or maybe still today out in rural communities — poor journalists really need bribes to survive? I don’t know.
    But in cities like Shanghai, they are calling up PR firms and demanding iPads, overseas vacations, luxury meals, and lots of hard, cold cash.
    They are definitely being asked to skew coverage favorably in return. Why would someone pay a bribe if they didn’t get something back for it?
    That’s the ethical breech. They’re selling out for coverage that is not entirely truthful. In the end, it’s the public — the reader or the viewer — who suffers.

    We all work with PR people an all get materials — but it has to be modest, related to the story, not cash, and not a guarantee for positive coverage (or any coverage). Most book publishers send review copies to reviewers. When I report on a museum or performance hall, I go in without a ticket. If I’m somewhere rural, an organizer may give me a lift. There will be coffee and snacks at a press conference. I’m not talking about these small pleasantries.

    The foreign press generally don’t get the “special” press packs. They get the regular ones — a cardboard folder with releases, a CD ROM or memory stick of images, a few business cards, a pen if you’re lucky.
    That’s why — as I said — there’s sometimes an extra “hongbau” in the Chinese-language packs.

    Of course, there are exceptional honest Chinese journalists and crummy Western ones. What I’m talking about is a broad culture that accepts payoffs as a normal part of media work.

  44. Joyce Lau
    April 19th, 2012 at 09:20 | #44

    Back to the main topic here, James Fallows had nice things to say about CCTV http://m.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2012/04/a-cloud-no-bigger-than-a-mans-hand-cctv-america-dept/256053/

  45. wwww1234
    April 20th, 2012 at 03:24 | #45


    The issue of bribery in people’s daily living is much exaggerated by the media.
    Few people I spoke to had personal experience of it, but all have heard of it, and many believe it to be rampant, esp among their peers that have gotten ahead of them.

    Years ago, my Taiwanese neighbor required a c-section. So they picked a date that was very “auspicious”.
    As the procedure was elective and all hospitals being public in Canada so the date was assigned. Wo, they attempted to bribe the doctor then the administrator with a gift/ donation.

    Years later, during the admission interview for a private school for the kid, they were asked what would likely be the future contribution of the kid to the school, if admitted.

    They understood the question (correctly in the Taiwan context? Chinese context?) was monetary and gave a reply in dollars, and became the joke of the day. Inspite of (or because of)this, the kid was admitted.

    See this from FT,

  46. wwww1234
    April 20th, 2012 at 03:48 | #46

    @Joyce Lau

    A good publisher /editor does not have to tell their journalists what to write, just select those with similar biased view point.

    That happens in Hong Kong a lot.
    Pay them exorbitantly well, eg the HKEJ, for a guarantee that they will at the minimum keep silent on many issues.
    dont you think this is a form of corruption, that is rampant?

  47. pug_ster
    April 22nd, 2012 at 16:49 | #47


    Actually this is a pretty good show from cntv.

  48. zack
    April 22nd, 2012 at 18:53 | #48

    thanks for the link, pug_ster; i watched a couple of programs and was impressed by the objectivity; they even had names like thomas friedman and former american diplomats/journalists who’d been to china when she was just opening up. It really reminds me of the old Al Jazeera before they sold out and became another foreign policy tool of the GCC/NATO

  49. April 22nd, 2012 at 23:33 | #49

    It’s also true that many Chinese think corruption differently. In the developed countries, taking people (government officials, potential customers, etc) out to lunch/dinner is viewed as normal ‘business meal.’ Whereas if you ask a Chinese whether a local government official being treated to a meal is corruption, they’d answer with a resounding ‘yes.’

    Despite all that, I honestly believe corruption is rampant in China. I have heard first accounts of doctors prescribing expensive medicine, because they can make a cut. I have heard of people paying hospitals fees to skip ahead of certain lines to see certain specialists.

    A friend came back from China recently was complaining to me about someone he knows working as a clerk at a recorder’s office. Because real-estate transactions generally would like this process to go smoothly, this individual would in fact put some documents til later and stamp first those from people who he knew and regularly entertain him to meals and what not.

    Perhaps the over-all impact of this clerk’s corruption is not that great, but nevertheless it exists even at such a menial profession.

    jxie made a very good point here – despite seemingly more corruption, China seems to be able to produce so much more.

    Okay, I am going in circles. I think corruption is rampant, but the damage may not be as severe as people tend to think, which is essentially the same conclusion you are reaching at.

  50. wwww1234
    April 23rd, 2012 at 01:29 | #50

    May be you are right that there is more corruption than I had realized, at least in your circles.
    But I have practically lived in China for years, and anywhere I go(taxi, local market, countryside, classes, travel, friends) I always ask, and most of the time I got frank answers.
    In the countryside they often become suspicious that I am an under cover official doing on site investigation ,
    and become even more eager to tell stories. It is only when a sorrowful spot is touched, eg when grandma died during the famine so the grandkids could survive, that they might terminate the conversation abruptly.
    Just now I walked by a group of 7 mothers with kids playing in the playground. One is an acquaintance. None of them had paid a bribe for child birth. One of them knew of someone who had put a “gift” of RMB 2000 in the doctor’s pocket, but that in general is not expected. However it is true that with health care being marketized, unnecessary medicines and tests are common. Nevertheless, that is also common in Hong Kong.

    Corruption at low level may not be a big deal, as one can resist the temptation simply by trying to be more upright, which in itself is a reward with our traditional values. .

    But corruption by the elites severe affects a government’s legitimacy and moral authority, and public work becomes hard to push through, as people would no longer be swayed by altruistic argument, and everyone will try to maximize personal gain even at the detriment of everyone else.

    Next time when you visit china, do it on the bicycle, good for your health, and you might benefit intellectually as well.

  51. wwww1234
    April 23rd, 2012 at 08:25 | #51

    @Joyce Lau
    There are many in this forum whose skill is at least on par with , or even surpasses, many foreign journalists now stationed in china or Hong Kong.

    But with their different perspective, what is the chance they can successfully land a job with a Western or Hong Kong media outfit?

    Or what is the chance their different views can be propagated?

    No one directs you how to write, as they already knew how you would write when they offered you the job.

    if one day you should ever write differently, no question you will either be terminated with a golden hand shake or be transferred. So don’t be over confident with how much “freedom” is at your disposal. .

  52. Hong Konger
    June 1st, 2013 at 14:44 | #52

    I know this is an old thread, but I wanted to update it, almost 1.5 years after CCTV America started.

    Good news
    The quality is much better than CCTV in China. They keep producing shows that, at least on the outside, look like high quality US programming.
    They have hired respected, veteran journalists from CNN, Bloomberg, etc, and kept them. These are not people who could just be bought with higher salaries. If it really was just a terrible propaganda channel, these guys would not risk their reputations and careers.
    While not as outspoken or critical as other US news, they have dug deeply into some interesting topics and done some good reporting.

    Bad news
    I’m shocked at how little original programming they are producting. From what I can tell, only about 15 hours a week. This is why CCTV can’t have its own channel — it would be either empty most of the time, or filled with endless reruns.
    For the state-funded budget, plus the expensive DC newsroom, tons of high-level hires, this is baffling to me. A true 24/7 broadcaster needs 100+ hours of programming a week. To compete, they need to up their production by alot.
    Their scant hours — usually just 1-2 hours a day on an obscure channel — also means they can’t do breaking news in any timely fashion, which is any broadcaster’s bread and butter.
    The lack of original content is not as obvious if you just watch piecemeal videos online, which brings us to…

    Even worse news
    They have to be promoting themselves well online, and they are not.
    Before commenters here complained they have no YouTube channel. Now they do, but it was last updated almost a week ago and the last video only had 106 views. That’s terrible. Teens’ cat videos get more hits.
    Their Twitter feed has just over 1,000 followers (very bad for an organization, not an individual) – and it’s mostly because they folloed about 1,000 people who just followed them back.
    It has no apps that I can find.

    I don’t know what to say. The content is getting better, but the publicity and marketing is so awful – it seems like a waste.

    For those of you in the US, do you watch it? Can you even find it? Could you imagine your friends, particularly your non-Chinese friends, even knowing what CCTV is?

  53. June 1st, 2013 at 22:58 | #53


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