Despite the collapse of his “dream” purchase of DirecTV, Rupert Murdoch can at least look back on 2001 as the year one longstanding ambition was fulfilled – permission to broadcast in mainland China.

The media tycoon’s Star Group is to roll out a new 24-hour Mandarin-language entertainment channel in the wealthy Guangdong province near Hong Kong early next year, following an agreement with state TV network China Central Television, China International Television and Guangdong Cable TV Networks.

The media mammoth was beaten through the bamboo curtain earlier this year by AOL Time Warner, which won permission to distribute its CETV channel in the same region [WAMN: 23-Oct-01], though the NewsCorp deal is the first time Chinese authorities have granted a foreign firm cable carriage rights for a completely new channel.

As with the AOL TW deal, the payoff involves NewsCorp broadcasting CCTV-9, the state-owned network’s English-language channel, in the US. Distribution will be arranged by Fox Cable Networks.

“We are excited about this landmark agreement, which represents a milestone for Star’s development in China,” enthused James Murdoch, chairman/ceo of Star. “It comes at a most opportune time with China's accession to the World Trade Organization, which provides a unique growth opportunity for the whole broadcasting industry.”

NewsCorp also owns a minority stake in Hong Kong-headquartered satellite operator Phoenix Television, awarded rights to broadcast in Guangdong province at the same time as the AOL TW deal.

The agreement with Star marks the latest step in a lengthy reconciliation process between Murdoch senior and the Chinese government, which took none too kindly to the media mogul’s 1993 observation that satellite TV posed “an unambiguous threat to totalitarian regimes.”

News source: AdAge Global