Comrade Murdoch Infiltrates China's Communist TV

22 February 2005

There's little the patriarch of Clan Murdoch won't do to expand his reach within the People's Republic of China. His latest feat is the broking of a love match between News Corporation and China Central Television, the broadcasting arm of the Communist Party's propaganda machine.

The latest union between the Paper Tiger and the Red Dragon will spawn a joint production venture - the first under new legislation passed last year that allows overseas companies into the nation's TV production market.

The National Geographic Channel, in which NewsCorp's Fox Entertainment Group has a 50% stake, already sells documentaries to the political broadcaster. The new joint venture will produce up to 300 hours of content a year, reports Hong Kong newspaper, The South China Morning Post.

The new rules permit a foreign partner to hold up to 49% of the latest venture, although the state remains a majority stockholder in all media and publishing companies.

Nonetheless, forty-nine percent is something of a luxury for Clan Murdoch, which controls NewsCorp with a voting stake of just 29.5%, likewise DirecTV with 35% and BSkyB with 35.3%.

Says a National Geographic Channel spokesman: "We can confirm there are discussions to create a longer-term partnership. We cannot comment on the structure of the potential partnership nor the timetable for formalising it."

Observers believe a template for the structure might already be in place. It could, for example, emulate China Netcom, the nation's second largest telco. One of its directors is Jiang Mianheng, son of the former Communist Party president and general secretary Jiang Zemin. Another is Rupert Keith Murdoch.

Data sourced from Wall Street Journal Online; additional content by WARC staff