China’s media: unfree even in private hands
As the news media in North America and Western Europe are struggling to adjust to the harsh realities of the digital world, their counterparts in China are facing a different challenge: adjusting to the harsh realities of the business world (see my earlier blog post on a similar challenge in Iran). Reuters reports on ...
As the news media in North America and Western Europe are struggling to adjust to the harsh realities of the digital world, their counterparts in China are facing a different challenge: adjusting to the harsh realities of the business world (see my earlier blog post on a similar challenge in Iran). Reuters reports on the government’s new policy that requires state-owned publishing houses to become more business-like through share offers, mergers, takeovers and controlled private investment.
…The rules say small, private publishing agents may be allowed to set up official joint operations with the state-run publishers. Such deals have been widespread over recent years despite past efforts to curtail them.
By late 2007, the China Daily reported, the country had 600 publishing houses and issued 9,500 magazines and 2,000 newspapers, making for a competitive but extremely fragmented publishing sector, which also competes with the Internet.
Fan Weiping, a publishing industry official with GAPP, told the newspaper that the government hopes to nurture seven “press and publishing giants with annual revenues of more than 10 billion yuan ($1.46 billion)” within five years.
What does it all mean? First, I think the Chinese authorities have finally realized that the Internet is going to destroy a lion’s share of the government’s publishing empire; they must have taken cues from the U.S., where even commerical ventures are struggling to keep up with the Internet challenge. Government-owned media behemoths do not stand much chance in this environment.
Second, I think the Chinese authorities are also quite content with their censorship system. It doesn’t really matter whether the critical content originates in the privately-owned or government-owned media – they know how to make it disappear anyway. By having their own state giants partner with private capital, they might essentialy reduce the burden on their own coffers without letting much criticism sneak in.
Third, in the meantime, the government may use the spare funds to launch a full-blown propaganda campaign aimed at the international audience (the government has already set aside $6.6 billion for these purposes).
Who knew the Communisty Party was so media-savvy?
Photo by doctorow/Flickr
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