American media giant Viacom is paving the way for the opening of its Chinese portal by forming an alliance with Beijing Television. The partnership will include the co-production of Chinese-language music and entertainment programs and the expansion of MTV China's availability to ten million homes.

The Chinese broadcast market has long been out of bounds for foreign media companies, but new guidelines announced by the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television may allow some overseas participation -- should the guidelines become law.

Viacom already has its foot in the Chinese door following the announcement six months ago of a joint venture with Shanghai Media Group [WAMN: 25-Mar-04], although this remains to be approved by the Chinese authorities.

Viacom's chairman/ceo Sumner Redstone is nevertheless confident that the SMG alliance will launch its first programs early next year.

Commenting on the Beijing venture, Redstone emphasizes he has been given the verbal all-clear, adding "we are committed to the principle that we will have a 24-hour MTV channel in Beijing and in Shanghai. We have been told by government officials that it is not impossible."

Viacom's input is likely to boost viewing figures and advertiser interest in SMG and Beijing Television stations.

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