China's Xinhua tries English TV News

Channel set for Dec. launch eyes broader China influence

BEIJING—The main media arm of the Chinese government said Wednesday it had launched a trial run for an international English-language television news service as part of a drive to boost the country's image and global media influence.

The Xinhua News Agency said its reporters across China and in more than 110 countries will produce domestic and international news that will be delivered to customers around the world at TV stations, Web sites, outdoor screens and to mobile users.

The move comes as the People's Daily, the staid daily that chronicles the activities of the Communist Party leadership and publishes editorials praising official policies, also expands its international coverage.

Xinhua would "interpret global events objectively and impartially from a Chinese angle and bring novel perspectives to foreign audiences," the agency quoted its president, Li Congjun, as telling an inauguration ceremony.

He said Xinhua would strive to become "an important TV news supplier for the world's users." That would potentially make it a competitor to news agencies such as The Associated Press and ThomsonReuters which already provide television footage along with text stories and photographs to worldwide customers.

The service will be formally launched on Dec. 31. It will be transmitted through satellite to Chinese users, and over the Internet to users in other countries.

Despite its rapid economic growth and rising global influence, China has retained its authoritarian one-party political system with strict limits on freedom of speech and civil and political life. The new TV service could be an attempt to provide an alternative to Western media coverage of the country.

Chinese authorities makes little secret of its disapproval of much of the international coverage of events inside China, sometimes, for example, blacking out TV news broadcasts on sensitive topics such as the 1989 crackdown on pro-democracy protesters at Tiananamen Square.

Also Wednesday, the People's Daily said in a front-page announcement that it was expanding from 16 pages to 20 pages, adding three pages on domestic and international news and one page of articles of theoretical studies, or arts and literature reviews.

It said the expansion, on the 88th anniversary of the establishment of the Communist Party, was "an important step toward strengthening the capacity for publicity at home and abroad ... and also a birthday present that the People's Daily dedicates to the party."

The telephone for the spokesperson of the newspaper, which has 72 foreign and domestic bureaus, rang unanswered Wednesday.

The People's Daily was launched one year before the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949. Its daily circulation surpassed 2 million in 2007, and it now has more than 20 subsidiary publications, including an English-language newspaper launched earlier this year.

The moves are believed to be part of a 45 billion yuan ($6.6 billion) government plan to fund a major expansion of Xinhua, the People's Daily and state broadcaster CCTV, as reported earlier this year by Hong Kong's South China Morning Post newspaper.

All three state media organizations enjoy top-level party support and funding, along with virtual monopolies in certain sectors of their domestic markets.

Officials have not confirmed the plan's details, but the Post said it calls for Xinhua to add a 24-hour satellite news channel. CCTV would add Arabic and Russian-language channels to its international Chinese, English, French and Spanish services, the newspaper said.

Xinhua has previously announced that it planned to provide English-language news for broadcast on screens in supermarkets in Europe in partnership with about a dozen European broadcast partners. But it has not given details on where this would happen or if it is linked to the television news service launch.