BEIJING: Digital media offers tremendous opportunities for growth in China, but the formal regulations currently in place in the country also threaten to stunt the sector's development unless they are reformed, Rupert Murdoch, the chief executive of News Corp, has said.

The world's most populous nation is expected to be one of the few markets to see an uptick in advertising expenditure levels this year, and digital, in particular, could be key for the country's media industry in the long term, Murdoch predicted.

"The digital renaissance offers China an opportunity to exercise leadership," he said in a presentation at the World Media Summit, but only if the national government chooses to open the "digital door."

"The embrace of the digital is as vital to China today as its decision 30 years ago to take its place in the global economy," Murdoch added.

As previously reported, the Communist authorities have announced their intention to reform the existing state-owned media firms, in an effort to develop private organisations able to compete overseas.

Murdoch similarly argued that "Chinese media and entertainment companies have a remarkable opportunity to expand their international influence and revenues."

However, at present they "are not exposed to the competition that would prepare them for the rigors of the global marketplace," he suggested.

Piracy is another of the main obstacles facing media owners in China, and "will make it difficult for them to generate the profits at home that would fuel growth abroad," according to Murdoch.

"China will ultimately decide its own fate, but unless the digital door is opened, opportunities will be lost and potential will not be realized," the ceo of News Corp concluded.

At the same event, China's president, Hu Jintao, said the country would "continue to make government affairs public, enhance information distribution, safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of foreign news organisations and reporters, and facilitate foreign media coverage of China in accordance with China's laws and regulations."

Data sourced from Wall Street Journal; additional content by Warc staff