In a recent piece for ChinaFile, I looked at how China’s leadership is building a new institutional layer through which to control the activities of news journalists — a national network of “news ethics committees,” or xinwen daode weiyuanhui (新闻道德委员会), at the city and provincial levels.
While these new mechanisms are routinely justified as responses to poor and worsening ethics in China’s media, closer observation of the underlying discourse suggests they are predominantly about the Party reasserting control over the news agenda.
The rollout of this national network continues this week with the formal creation of the Anhui News Ethics Committee, with we are told aims to “further strengthen self-regulation in the news industry and social oversight of news work, and promote the improvement of news teams.”
The Beijing News Ethics Committee holds its first meeting in September 2014.
The announcement of the committee’s creation, on November 30, said it responded to the “spirit” of the recent Fifth Plenum of the 18th CCP Central Committee, held back in October. The committee would, said local media coverage, “prioritise resolving paid-for news, fake news, sensationalism and other obvious problems.”
One of the news ethic’s committee’s first acts was to create a reporting hotline allowing the public to call attention to possible instances of misconduct. In case you’re wondering, that number is: 0551–62608957.