AOL Time Warner is to become the first foreign broadcaster to get direct access to the much-coveted mainland Chinese market, having forged a deal with China’s state TV network China Central Television.

The agreement will see AOL TW’s CETV Chinese-language channel – already received by around 80 million households across Asia – broadcast on cable systems in Guangdong province from next year. The region in south-east China is one of the nation’s most prosperous, and already receives broadcasts from nearby Hong Kong, where central government censorship does not apply.

The payoff is that the Chinese network’s CCTV-9 English-language channel will be carried by Time Warner Cable in Los Angeles, Houston and New York City. American viewers can look forward to a blend of music, cookery shows, news, nature, sports, travel documentaries and Chinese lessons, which officials hope will alter US perceptions of the country.

Unveiling the deal on Monday, AOL TW did not reveal whether CETV would be subject to censorship by Chinese authorities. The channel broadcasts a mixture of entertainment and sports programmes, but no news.

The media mammoth beats Rupert Murdoch’s NewsCorp, which has been negotiating a similar deal [WAMN: 05-Sep-01], to the sought-after Chinese mainland. However, Murdoch can draw some comfort – Hong Kong-based satellite broadcaster Phoenix Television, in which NewsCorp-owned Star Television holds a sizeable stake, was on Friday granted permission to broadcast to the same area.

News source: Wall Street Journal