According to these figures, 249m of China's 330m households now enjoy access to their own television set, while 24 per cent are subscribing to programming available through cable.
These figures are backed up by independent research company CSM's own extensive surveys of 40 of China's largest cities where, on a sample base of some 30,000 interviewees, 50 per cent of house-holds were hooked up to cable by the fourth quarter of 1997. By comparison, 54 per cent had a telephone installed in their household, four per cent a personal computer and 35 per cent a video cassette recorder. A little more than five per cent claim to be able to receive STAR TV.
Across Asia as a whole, including Australia, New Zealand and India, a total of 90m out of 'the region's 429m television households are currently estimated to be hooked up to cable services. China there-fore represents 58 per cent of all television households and 66 per cent of all cabletelevision households in the region.
The ministry press release continued to gush out more impressive statistics: 86 per cent of the population is now within the technical reach footprints of 40,800 terrestrial television transmitters; 1,200 cable networks operate over 340,000km of cable trunk lines and 1.5m km of local distribution lines. Investment in cable development in 1997 topped US$362m.
Much of this story can be told at a lo-cal as well as a national level. Sichuan, China's second-most populous province, recently hosted its annual television festival, an increasingly important event in the Chinese television calendar. In many ways this province, lying at the geographical heart of the country and yet far from its economic centre, encapsulates the audio-visual revolution of the last 10 years.
Launching its first television broad-casts in 1960, by the end of 1996 the province hosted 39 stations, transmitting 42 terrestrial channels alongside 43 cable operators reaching 5m subscribers. Some 2,898 hours of television is being relayed weekly across all these outlets.
In a 1983 ruling, the State Council is-sued a policy allowing television stations to be established at four government levels: national (CCTV), provincial, prefectural city and county city. However, few stations operating at the county city level, the most locally-oriented, have proved to be viable economically. In particular, advertising revenue is hard to attract.
Cable has now begun to provide an outlet for Sichuan's version of local television services. Fifty county governments have launched their own operations via local cable systems, sharing in the subscription revenues of the services.
With a geographically challenging ter-rain, the provincial government has taken steps to extend the terrestrial reception to the most remote mountain villages. The '1000 Townships Engineering Project' succeeded in getting reception equipment installed in 340 remote locations in 1996 and a further 300 installations this year. To date, 87 per cent of the population has come within the technical orbit of terrestrial television ?roughly in line with the country as a whole.
Andrew Green is Director of Strategic Media Resources, Zenith Media Asia, tel: (852) 2582 3423.