The new head of CCTV just gave the game away, as Malcolm Moore from The Telegraph reports. Looks to me like Beijing is thinking about tightening the reins even more, if that’s even possible:
Hu Zhanfan, who took the reins at CCTV in November, said that journalists who kidded themselves that they were independent professionals, rather than “propaganda workers”, were making a “fundamental mistake about identity”.
In an event hosted by the China National Media Association, Mr Hu told his colleagues that “the first social responsibility and professional ethic of media staff should be understanding their role clearly as a good mouthpiece”.
He added that those who forgot this lesson “would never go far”.
Since the Communist party took power, it has held to a Marxist-Leninist view of journalism as a tool of propaganda, even as it seeks to commercialise the sector and expand into markets overseas, including the UK.
However, hearing the party line so bluntly voiced by the new head of CCTV was enough to depress many journalists, and prospective journalists, about the prospects of China opening up its tight control of the sector.
Mr Hu’s comments, posted on Weibo, China’s version of Twitter, caused a flurry of 10,000 responses, most of which were quickly erased by the censors. “As a media student, I feel very depressed,” said a web user called Bao Xiaomo. “People who are obviously doing advertising claim that they are doing news.”
Jiao Guobiao, a former professor of media and journalism at Peking university who fell from grace after challenging the central Propaganda department, said Mr Hu had merely spoken his mind in a relaxed meeting of his peers.
“Whether you study journalism or work as a journalist, you are told this mantra over and over again, that you work for the Party and are its mouthpiece. The problem is that only the Party gets a mouthpiece, the public does not get a mouthpiece,” he said.
Referring to the outrage on the internet, Mr Jiao said: “Kids born in the 1980s and 1990s obviously are not aware of how the system works, so they get angry and indignant. The paradox is that the media has borrowed the Western concepts of objectivity and neutrality, but put them in the service of propaganda. Hopefully things will change in five to ten years time.”
Meanwhile, Fu Guoyong, a veteran journalist and commentator, gave his view of the Chinese media on Weibo: “There is no relatively independent media at present. Even if there are quite a few organisations orientated to the market, behind them stands the party media and we are all controlled by the party’s propaganda organs.”