Foreign invasion taking ratings

Guangdong stations fight News Corp., TW rivals

SHANGHAI — Foreign broadcasters may be happy at new landing rights in China’s Guangdong Province, but local TV stations are suffering as their audience share drops.

Now five TV and radio stations are banding together to strengthen the industry and woo back viewers.

Local media sources report that Guangdong Television, Nanfang Television, Guangdong Cable Network, Guangdong Radio and a satellite broadcasting company will be controlled by the new Guangdong Radio, Film and Television Group, due to be established by the end of this year.

GRFT will report to the provincial wing of the government broadcast body, the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television. Its head honcho has yet to be announced.

The change is aimed at improving management, bolstering revenue and cutting costs. Guangzhou Television has been restructuring since last year, when new director Li Jinyuan took over. Li has reportedly based his reforms on the cost structures used by foreign broadcasters. It is estimated that the station could lose up to half of its 1,200 employees.

China’s media has changed radically during the last decade, with many TV and radio stations now part of giant regional congloms.

Several thousand TV channels were pared down to around 300 at the end of the 1990s, and new media groups have emerged in the last couple of years.

The biggest, Shanghai Media and Entertainment Group, was formed in 2001 and has interests in television, radio, cable, sports, theater and property.

Guangdong’s domestic broadcasters have been losing ground to broadcasters from Hong Kong and abroad since landing rights were granted to overseas channels.

The Pearl River Delta, an area of Guangdong that borders Hong Kong, is the only area in China where foreign broadcasters — including News Corp., Phoenix and AOL Time Warner — are allowed direct access to local viewers via cable.

Elsewhere, foreign signals are restricted to satellite, which is legally available only in high-end hotels and foreign residential compounds.

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