By David Bandurski — News came last week of the death of CCTV Network News co-anchor Luo Jing (罗京), a stern news reader whose face was familiar to television viewers across China. This week comes with speculation that Network News, one of China’s most important conduits of official party propaganda, is due for an overhaul, or perhaps a tweak — a tiaozheng (调整).
We could be forgiven for rolling our eyes and moving on to other “news.” After all, we’ve heard the exact same story before.


[ABOVE: Screenshot of online news coverage today of upcoming changes to CCTV’s Network News program.]

It was exactly three years ago that I rattled off my views on another Network News “face change,” providing the kicker for this piece by the Wall Street Journal.
Changes back in 2006 were supposed to infuse the news program with new vitality and soul. Whether or not this was achieved is purely a matter of personal taste. Do you find Kang Hui (康辉) and Li Ziming (李梓萌) endearing as they read off the news stories of the day, shaped and signed off on by top CCP leaders, and delivered going right down the chain of command, starting with President Hu Jintao?
Though they may come with a heap of media hoopla, “changes” like those at CCTV’s Network News are generally not important in and of themselves.
But they are interesting illustrations of the underlying factors both promoting and inhibiting media “change” in China. They are classic examples of the commercially-driven changes mandated by Hu Jintao’s policy of the “Three Closenesses.” At the same time, however, they are stunted and held back by the overarching priority of media control — which goes a long way to explaining why, ultimately, these “changes” are so ineffectual.
Hype about the latest round of Network News changes is just getting off the ground. But it is bolstered today by comments from Yu Guoming (喻国明), a respected professor of communications at People’s University of China. He tells Jinghua Times, the commercial spin-off of the official People’s Daily:

“Network News is attempting to draw itself closer to the people.” (“《新闻联播》也试图变得更为亲民.”)
Yu Guoming said that among television programs in China, Network News did in recent years suffer from a certain seriousness and lack of vitality. “As I understand it, China Central Television will make adjustments to its news programs, including Network News, this month or in the near future.”

Professor Yu also told the Jinghua Times that: “This will possibly be the biggest change to CCTV programming in the last 10 years.”
Yu Guoming’s first quote above gives us the precise framework in which we should understand upcoming changes at Network News, however they take shape. His reference to “closeness to the people,” or qinmin (亲民), is a direct invocation of Hu’s “Three Closenesses” policy.
We’ll have to wait and see, of course. And this “news” might make an interesting blurb for the foreign newswires.
But don’t hold your breath.
[Posted by David Bandurski, June 8, 2009, 12:53pm HK]

David Bandurski

CMP Director

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