- The Washington Times - Friday, February 14, 2003

BEIJING (AP) China has approved plans for state television to create a 24-hour news channel, setting the stage for tension between the government's strict media controls and mounting competitive pressures in the delivery of broadcast news.
China Central Television is still planning the service and hasn't set an air date, said a government spokesman yesterday who asked not to be named.
It was not clear how such a service would work, given the communist government's longtime obsession with controlling the media. CCTV's main newscasts are heavily political, focusing on the daily activities of leaders and promoting ideological campaigns.
"We have had the proposal for a long time, but only recently got permission to go ahead," the spokesman said. He wouldn't say whether the service would be broadcast abroad or give other details.
However, a manager of CCTV's news department said plans call for the channel to be available worldwide. The manager would give only his surname, Liu, and said he didn't have other information.
CCTV operates 12 channels, including ones devoted to movies, sports and cultural events. It estimates its combined broadcasts reach 300 million homes, a vast majority of the country's 1.3 billion population.
CCTV branched out to the United States last year, signing deals with AOL Time Warner Inc. and News Corp. to have its English-language channel carried into American homes on cable and by satellite.
Stations that offer 24-hour news have multiplied rapidly in the last decade, changing how news is distributed throughout the world. But many have failed to make money, and some have folded after only a few years of operation.
That would be unlikely for any CCTV venture, given the government's willingness to subsidize arms of its propaganda apparatus.
Any such operation would start out in a competitive environment.
Phoenix TV, a Chinese-language satellite broadcaster in Hong Kong, has been granted a license to transmit its 24-hour news channel to the mainland but only to luxury hotels and compounds and apartment complexes that house foreigners. Similar conditions apply to CNN and the British Broadcasting Corp.'s BBC World television service, which broadcast in English.

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