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Tuesday, 9 January, 2001, 16:52 GMT
China's changing media
Satellite dishes, China
Chinese viewers can now access a multitude of new channels
By Kate Liang, East Asia specialist

The decision by the Chinese authorities to allow BBC World to be broadcast in upmarket international hotels marks a softening in Beijing's attitude towards the BBC.

Other foreign channels, such as CNN and CNBC are already available in hotels and foreign compounds.

Cyber cafe, China
The internet is available in cyber cafes
But it is in the domestic market that China has seen the most profound changes in recent years.

There has been an explosion in the number of channels open to Chinese viewers, with a plethora of cable TV stations offering pop programmes, soap operas and chat shows, all interspersed with advertisements.

Radio phone-ins

There has been growth in other media as well, with a profusion of glossy magazines full of gossip and lonely-hearts advice.

Local radio stations with phone-in programmes, where listeners call in regularly to complain about local government offices and officials, as well as airing their views on more usual subjects have also grown.

Plus of course there's the internet, available to city dwellers in cyber cafes, as well as in universities and privately for those that can afford it.

This growth does not mean that politically-sensitive issues are free from censorship.

Censorship continues

The government still sets limits on what can be broadcast and what can't, and continues to block what it deems to be politically-sensitive internet sites and some foreign media.

Falun Gong protestor
Falun Gong activities are still not reported

There are some clear no-go areas, for example critical reports on the Tiananmen Square massacre of 1989, or sympathetic coverage of the Falun Gong movement.

That said, analysts in China report a significant relaxation in the reporting of economic news, which is deemed by the authorities to be vital for the country's growth.

This is a far cry from the past, when glowing figures from the latest five-year plan would be greeted with rapture by the press.

Environmental issues, and issues of local corruption which do not have implications on a national level, are also increasingly reported, especially in southern China where editors tend to be less directly influenced by political control from Beijing.

This new pragmatism is perhaps a sign that, in certain areas at least, the limits set by the government on freedom of expression are open to some negotiation around the edges.

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See also:

09 Jan 01 | Asia-Pacific
China lets in BBC TV
17 Nov 00 | From Our Own Correspondent
China's changing face
29 Feb 00 | Asia-Pacific
Asian telecoms giant takes shape
07 Sep 99 | Asia-Pacific
Anger over Murdoch's Tibet comments
28 Oct 99 | World
BBC World: Who wants it?
20 Sep 99 | UK
Job losses at BBC World
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