China's Corruption-Hit State Broadcaster CCTV Names New Chief

CCTV Still - H 2012

CCTV Still - H 2012

Nie Chenxi takes over the reins at CCTV after a graft investigation which has seen the detention of some of the network's biggest names.

The state-run China Central Television (CCTV) network, which has been hit by widespread graft investigations in recent years, has appointed a senior member of the country's media watchdog, Nie Chenxi, as its new chief.

Nie has "good political qualities, ideas and faith, strong leadership and coordination as well as moral integrity," the State General Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television (SAPPRFT) said in a statement on its official website.

Nie is a computer programming major with no formal journalism and communication education. He worked for the Hebei Provincial Bureau of Statistics and other administrative positions in that province, before becoming head of the propaganda department there in 2006.

The media sector has been in the spotlight as part of President Xi Jinping's corruption crackdown and CCTV has been one of the highest profile targets of the campaign.

By appointing a technocrat to the post, the government is signaling that it intends to keep a tight grip on the broadcaster, which has a network of 45 channels and over one billion viewers.

The broadcaster has also faced competitive pressures in recent years from online TV broadcasters, which has hit advertising revenues and forced it to modernize.

Earlier this week, CCTV-6, known as China Movie Channel, said that it and its distribution arm, 1905, were cooperating with Jiaflix and leading game publisher Electronic Arts (EA) to develop a sequel to the 2014 action-thriller Need for Speed.

The network has also been buying up content overseas, including programming from Britain's BBC and Germany's ZDF.

Nie becomes the 11th president of the television network since 1958.

The former president of CCTV Hu Zhanfan, who was appointed in 2011, was removed from the post due to his age.

"Hu is politically steadfast and has taken a clear-cut stand on cardinal questions of right and wrong, keeping highly consistent with the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) inwardly and in action, making great contributions to the development of CCTV," the broadcaster said in a statement.

CCTV has been at the forefront of China's efforts to boost its image abroad and the company has 70 news bureaus overseas, including a multi-floor TV studio complex on New York Avenue NW in Washington DC.

Many of the corruption investigations are linked to allies of the disgraced former national security chief Zhou Yongkang, who was formerly charged with corruption and leaking state secrets last week. His trial is imminent and he is the most senior Communist Party official to be charged.

CCTV's former deputy president Li Dongsheng was one ally of Zhou's detained, while last July, one of China’s most popular TV news presenters, Rui Chenggang, was detained shortly before he was due to make his nightly broadcast. Advertising director Guo Zhenxi, and producer Tian Liwu have also been investigated on suspicion of graft.

Liu Wen, the director-general of documentary channel CCTV-9, has also been caught in the graft dragnet.

Two female anchors, Ye Yingchun and Bing Shen, were reportedly detained for their links to Zhou, while Zhou’s second wife, Jia Xiaoye, a former presenter and producer at CCTV-2, who is 28 years his junior, formerly worked with both Ye and Shen and has also been investigated.

In December, the producer Luo Fanghua, wife of the brother-in-law of disgraced former official Ling Jihua, was also held.

The state news agency Xinhua said the allegations against Zhou also included "exchanging power and money for sex".

The anti-corruption investigation by the CPC Central Commission for Discipline and Inspection (CCDI) has taken some big scalps to date, most notably Zhou and Bo Xilai, the former party boss in Dalian and Chongqing who was purged last year, and is serving a life sentence for corruption and abuse of power, while his wife sits in jail for murder.

Chinese journalists often receive cash in envelopes for attending press conferences, and there have been scandals about journalists blackmailing companies to ensure positive coverage.