Our faithful readers may have noticed a daily brief the other day on the subject of a US$6.6 billion planned expansion of the Chinese media. Read here for more info, but basically it’s more people, more coverage, more products, and more fun to be had.
This is a striking development at a time when Western media is struggling to cope with the double whammy of declining print sales and an inability to convince a booming online readership to actually pay for journalism. Will someone please figure out a viable business model? And then will that someone get me in on the ground floor?
I wouldn’t say I’m alarmist about the prospect of an expanded Chinese media presence across the globe. And I’m not naive enough to believe that news, just by virtue of being Western or foreign, is without bias. Of course the Western news is biased. Nonetheless, this is not to say that there’s no difference in degree.
Let’s leave aside those hot-button human rights issues for a moment (just a moment) and concentrate on the supposedly-non-political world of financial information. In the run-up to the Olympics we saw the Chinese state stifle comments from fund managers and bar financial websites from running negative stories about stock market. Any meddling in the free flow of financial information obviously harms investors and markets, but such concerns are secondary to staying on message.
While the Chinese state media expansion seems to be primarily focused on providing coverage for their domestic audience, it is noteworthy that they’re planning to broadcast in more languages like Russian and Arabic. China wants to get its message out to more parts of the world. Fair enough, and why shouldn’t they? But the question all of this raises for me is, what becomes of global perception of events when Chinese news becomes just “the news” for more of the world?