China Central TV in 'Focus Interview' scandal

Station accused of faking interview on porn addiction

BEIJING -- China's state television station is in hot water again, having been caught interviewing one of its own interns posing as a student who blamed Google for dragging a "classmate" into porn addiction.

Blogs and online bulletin board posts poked at China Central Television and its popular primetime "Focus Interview" program for broadcasting an interview Thursday with a college student called Gao Ye, who described how a classmate became obsessed with X-rated images he found by searching Google's China site, www.google.cn.

Chinese netizens -- there are now nearly 300 million of them -- quickly unmasked Gao as a "Focus Interview" intern based on content on his now-defunct blog at www.sina.com.

Joel Martinsen, a Beijing-based blogger who comments on and translates Chinese media at the Web site www.danwei.org, said Gao's unmasking raised "questions about the veracity of his statement in the interview and the broadcaster's own professional ethics."

Producers at "Focus Interview" could not be reached for comment.

In another twist, China's government Internet censors appear to have added Gao Ye to their regularly updated list of words banned from searches and pulled from bulletin board posts, thus hampering further online discussion of CCTV's gaffe.

As the blogger Devil's Haircut points out, this poses no small problem as Gao means "tall" and Ye means "and." Several Web searches including those words in close proximity now turn up error messages on search engines in China.

Meanwhile, in response to CCTV's criticism, Google on Tuesday suspended its "suggest" function that offers a list of refinements to words users type in the search box.

The CCTV report last week was prompted by the release of a study from the China Internet Illegal Information Reporting Center that said that porn pics still were found through the Google China Web site despite earlier warnings.

Google has since said it has been "continually working to deal with pornographic content -- and material that is harmful to children -- on the Web in China."

The "Focus Interview" incident is the latest embarrassment for CCTV, which recently fired several mid-level employees it blamed for the accidental fireworks blaze that in February destroyed a building adjacent to its new Beijing headquarters.
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