BEIJING — China’s state news agency has launched a trial run of an international English-language TV news service, part of an increasingly sophisticated propaganda drive to boost the country’s image abroad and lift its global media presence.
The Xinhua news agency said its reporters across China and in 110 countries worldwide would produce domestic and international news to be distributed around the world.
The new service is a key part of China’s efforts to promote its influence in the world in the way that the BBC, Al-Jazeera and Voice of America do already.
China is reportedly spending 45 billion yuan ($6.6 billion) on expanding its three main media orgs, Xinhua, China Central Television (CCTV) and the People’s Daily newspaper.
China’s rapid expansion has not been matched by similar levels of media freedom as the ruling Communist Party seeks to keep a grip on TV, blogs and newspapers, although some restrictions have been relaxed in recent years, such as reporting on disasters.
The new TV service will aim to provide an alternative to Western media coverage, especially on sensitive issues like Tibetan independence and efforts to introduce more democracy. There was much criticism of CNN’s coverage of the Tibetan demonstrations in Lhasa last year, while many TV news reports about the 20th anniversary of the crackdown on democracy protesters on Tiananmen Square were blocked in China.
This year marks the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949 and there are numerous events planned to mark the event, including a giant military parade in October to be choreographed by China’s leading helmer Zhang Yimou.
Currently China’s international TV presence is restricted to 24-hour news channels on CCTV in Mandarin, English, French and Spanish that can be picked up overseas, as well as the sale overseas of documentaries. CCTV is expected to add Arabic and Russian-language services to its current offering.
Xinhua would “interpret global events objectively and impartially from a Chinese angle and bring novel perspectives to foreign audiences,” agency prexy Li Congjun told an inauguration ceremony, and would become “an important TV news supplier for the world’s users.”
Service will be formally launched on Dec. 31. and will be transmitted through satellite to Chinese users, and over the Internet to users in other countries.
The news comes shortly after the announcement that the Communist Party’s chief mouthpiece, the People’s Daily, will be revamped to increase its influence at home and abroad. The People’s Daily launched its first English language tabloid newspaper, the Global Times, in May.
The People’s Daily was launched one year before the revolution, and it boasts more than two million readers.
The expanded newspaper will mainly cover China news, international news, literary commentary and feature stories to “better spread the central government’s policies, report from both domestic and overseas fronts, and strengthen the publication of the socialism theory with Chinese characteristics and Marxism literature theory.”