Xinhua to launch English-language TV news

30 June 2009

BEIJING: Xinhua, the state-run Chinese news agency, is launching an English-language news service that will be touted to media organisations and websites around the world as part of an ongoing drive by the Chinese authorities to present itself to the West in a more positive light. 

Content from the initiative, which officials liken to using "soft power" for portraying the emerging superpower, will also be broadcast on screens in China's embassies around the world.

Up to 23 organisations have registered for content, according to Xinhua, which will produce short news items and more general lifestyle packages using a dedicated staff of 40 based in the Chinese capital. It wouldn't divulge which outlets had signed up, but it is said to include some Brussels-based supermarkets.

"China has recognised the importance of soft power, and through the medium of television and the internet the Chinese government aims to strengthen its influence internationally," said Chen Yue, a spokesman for the new initiative.

Reports in the Chinese press, denied by government sources, suggest that Beijing is prepared to pour between 30 billion yuan ($4.4bn; €3.1bn; £2.7bn) and 45 billion yuan to such overseas media projects, with the ultimate ambition of establishing an operation that rivals in the influence stakes the likes of Al Jazeera, the BBC and CNN.

But the challenge remains whether China can shake off its reputation for domestic censorship and control when it tries to woo international viewers raised on a varied diet of commercially-driven, independent media, generally free from state interference.

"We have been hiring aggressively and building our TV capabilities for months," a department head at Xinhua said. "But still, it will take a long time until we can actually challenge CNN or BBC."

Data sourced from The Daily Telegraph and Financial Times