Sky News, CCTV sign landmark deal

Broadcasters will exchange English-language news reports

SYDNEY -- Australia's 24-hour Sky News pay TV service has sealed a landmark reciprocal programming agreement with national broadcaster China Central Television, the state-run Xinhua news agency and Sky News said on Monday.

Under the groundbreaking deal, signed in Beijing on Friday, Sky, and CCTV will host each others' news English-language news programs for the first time.

Calls to CCTV for comment went unanswered.

The deal, announced in the run-up to the May 1 start of the Shanghai World Expo 2010, will see daily business reports from the Sky News Business Channel land on CCTV, covering key trade events in both countries.

The Sky News service, run by the Australian News Channel, is jointly owned by British satellite broadcaster, BSkyB, the Seven Media Group and PBL Media.

With a nationwide footprint reaching most of China's 395 million television households, CCTV is arguably the world's largest broadcaster in terms of audience.

A key plank in the deal for Sky is the agreement to broadcast the English-language CCTV news analysis program "Dialogue" on its public affairs channel A-PAC, which reaches 2.5 million homes across Australia.

This is the first time anywhere in the world that "Dialogue" has been broadcast outside of China other than on a CCTV station, Sky News said.

"Dialogue" is a current affairs and interview program broadcast from Beijing in English. While more wide-ranging than some Chinese-language news it cannot question the accepted line of the ruling Communist Party.

Under the agreement, CCTV will have regular access to programming and journalists from Sky News main channel and the Sky News Business Channel.

Sky political editor David Speers will travel to China in May to host special broadcasts of "China Agenda" from the Shanghai World Expo 2010, Xinhua said.

Speers's’ visit will highlight Australian trade officials and business leaders presence at the World Expo. Sky News Business Channel's Peter Switzer also will broadcast from Shanghai.

The deal is also seen in Australia as a bolster to Sky News’ expansion plans in the region. Sky New s CEO Angelos Frangopolous has publicly stated the channel’s desire to bid against the Australian Broadcasting Corp. for the rights to operate Australia Network, the Australian government-owned pan Asian news and entertainment channel.  The ABC’s contract to run that channel expires next year.

"This is more than just a gesture between Australian and Chinese media that has occurred in the past. The results of the agreement that Sky News and CCTV have signed will materialize immediately into regular television broadcasts from next week," Frangopoulos said, according to Xinhua.

"Sky News and A-PAC are dedicated to building both international and domestic awareness of public affairs and opening new windows on news events and the important issues facing the Australian people,” he told The Australian newspaper.

-- Jonathan Landreth contributed to this report from Beijing.
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