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 Friday, 20 December, 2002, 12:29 GMT
Murdoch wins China state TV deal
Mr Murdoch with his third wife, Wendi Deng
Mr Murdoch is married to ex-Star executive Wendi Deng
Media mogul Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation empire has made another breakthrough into China's TV market.

News Corp will win more Chinese audiences with our help

Hunan broadcasting official

A unit of News Corporation has signed a strategic partnership with a Chinese provincial station, becoming the first foreign broadcaster allowed to show its programmes on state-owned TV.

Star Group reportedly signed the partnership agreement in Beijing with representatives of Hunan Broadcasting Group, based in the central Chinese province of Hunan, which is famous as the birthplace of Chairman Mao.

News Corporation was one of the three foreign media companies given permission to beam their programmes into China last year.

'Cultural exchange'

The latest agreement did not involve any financial transaction, being intended solely to swap programmes "and promote cultural understanding," an official from the Hunan broadcaster said.

All that has been agreed is that the two firms' jointly produced programmes will be broadcast on both networks, the official said.

Cutting edge

Access to China's media is tightly controlled. As in many other countries, foreign-owned firms are barred from ownership of China's media.

But Australian-born Mr Murdoch, who took United States citizenship to buy into the US TV market, has been more successful than most at penetrating China.

Most foreign TV in China is restricted to tourist hotels and prestige office blocks used by international firms.

However, Star Group won a breakthrough permission to broadcast direct to Chinese audiences in Guangdong province, next to Hong Kong, earlier this year.

Two other foreign-owned channels - Phoenix Chinese Channel, in which Murdoch's News Corp owns a stake, and AOL Time Warner's CETV - have also been given access to Guangdong.

Prospects

China's advertising market is potentially huge but highly fragmented. Analysts regard access to state TV as key to cracking the problem of access to national coverage.

Star focuses on entertainment. In one game show, syndicated in China, women reject contestants in a male beauty contest line up by dropping them into cold water.

The partnership represents "is the first time China has given approval to a foreign media organisation for comprehensive co-operation with a Chinese partner", according to Shanghai Securities News, the official mouthpiece of China's stock market regulator.

Hunan Broadcast Group has a stockmarket listed subsidiary.

See also:

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