Thu | Nov 15, 2018

Chinese state media now with more Communist Party propaganda

Published:Friday | March 23, 2018 | 12:00 AM
In this October2017 file photo, Chinese President Xi Jinping claps while addressing the media as he introduces new members of the Politburo Standing Committee at Beijing's Great Hall of the People.

Chinese state media will be getting more propaganda now that the Communist Party has announced it will be in direct control of broadcasters and the regulators of everything, from movies and TV to books and radio programmes.

The move is part of a push by President Xi Jinping - emboldened by the removal of term limits on his time in office - to tighten party supervision over broad swathes of Chinese public life as he pushes for what he calls "unity in thought" among officials and citizens.

Analysts say having direct oversight of the media will help the party hammer home its message domestically and also work to improve its image internationally.

"It's one vast effort to get everybody thinking together," said David Zweig, director of the Center on China's Transnational Relations at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.

Under the plan announced on Wednesday, China Radio International, China National Radio and China Central Television, along with its international broadcast arm, China Global Television Network, will be merged into a new body with a name that translates to 'Voice of China'.

The government's regulator of the press and print publications, radio, film and television will cease to exist and its responsibilities and resources will be transferred to the party's Central Propaganda Department, along with control over the film industry, including the import and export of movies.

The new body's chief responsibilities include "implementing the party's propaganda guidelines and policies," the official Xinhua News Agency said.

The Communist Party newspaper Global Times quoted government expert Feng Yue of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences as saying the move will "concentrate the resources and authority to improve China's influence overseas and promote China's international image".

Little choice for ordinary Chinese

While Chinese media consumers have grown increasingly apolitical with an ever-expanding range of options, from foreign television shows to video games and online shopping, Xi has been steadily increasing the role of the party in the lives of many through new or newly invigorated branch committees in schools, offices and factories.

That could leave ordinary Chinese with "little choice" but to become active consumers of propaganda, Zweig said.

Writing on the website of the China Media Project at the University of Hong Kong, editor David Bandurski said the change gave the Propaganda Department - which formerly provided broad overall guidance of the media message - direct control over output.

"And that is largely the point that comes through here - the tighter, more centralized control of media and ideology," Bandurski said.

As its name suggests, the new media monolith appears modelled on outlets such as the US's Voice of America or Russia's Russia Today, now known simply as RT.

Xi has repeatedly stressed the role of state media as the party's "throat and tongue" - the equivalent of "mouthpiece" - especially since a 2016 visit to Xinhua and other major outlets during which he further reinforced the message by saying such outlets must "take the 'party' as their surname".

- AP