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Thursday, 20 December, 2001, 12:10 GMT
Murdoch wins China cable TV deal
James Murdoch (L), chairman and CEO of the Star TV, Zhao Huayong (C), chairman of China Central Television (CCTV), and Wang Changli (R), chairman of Guangdong Cable TV Networks (GCTV)
James Murdoch, left, signed the agreement in Beijing
News Corporation head Rupert Murdoch has been given permission to launch a cable TV channel in China in a deal that he hopes will put his media empire in a strong position to win over the country's long-coveted audiences.

Murdoch has cultivated relations with China for years in the hope that Star TV, his Chinese network, would reach more of the country's 1.3 billion-strong population.

Rupert Murdoch
Rupert Murdoch has been trying to break into the Chinese market
The new deal means a 24-hour Mandarin-language entertainment channel will be broadcast on cable to Guangdong, China's most affluent province.

Star, run by Rupert Murdoch's son James, has previously only been allowed to broadcast to expatriates and tourist hotels, which received the service by satellite.

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

The province is seen by some as a testing ground for the foreign channels.

China has 74,000 broadband internet subscribers - but 95 million people take cable TV.

Media groups hope cable deals will encourage the spread of broadband internet.

Of course we're doing a kind of self-censorship

Wang Yukui
News Corp
But, like with the other deals, there will be no news on the new Star channel.

"We won't do programs that are offensive in China," said Wang Yukui, a Beijing-based spokesman for News Corp.

That stance is in keeping with Star TV's regional policy of not broadcasting programs that are unacceptable to local audiences, he said.

"If you call this self-censorship, then of course we're doing a kind of self-censorship."

Murdoch's News Corp also owns the Fox network
Murdoch's News Corp also owns the Fox network
The company is looking forward "to having a broader reach to Chinese audiences" in the long term, he said.

The channel will probably show game shows, dramas, comedies and talk shows, according to James Murdoch.

"Game shows work, I like game shows," he said.

The Indian version of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? has already made Star the most popular satellite broadcaster in that country.

In return for being allowed cable access, News Corp has agreed that its United States network, Fox, will carry the English-language channel of Chinese state broadcaster, CCTV-9.

The Murdoch empire has previously courted the Chinese government - sometimes attracting international criticism in the process.

In the past, there was no enforcement, and it was a wild west area

Norman Waite
Media analyst
In 1994, the Star network removed the BBC's international news from its service because a programme critical of late leader Mao Zedong offended the authorities.

But while this deal is being seen as a relaxation of the Chinese government's firm grip on the media, some say it will have the opposite effect.

Millions of Chinese households have received semi-legal foreign satellite channels for years - but this could be a way for authorities to take more control of what is watched, analysts say.

"In the past, there was no enforcement, and it was a wild west area. Now they are creating a legal area, which makes all the rest illegal," according to Norman Waite, a media analyst with Salomon Smith Barney in Hong Kong.

See also:

23 Oct 01 | TV and Radio
AOL strikes China TV deal
06 Sep 01 | Business
China offers Murdoch TV deal
16 Aug 01 | Business
Murdoch's News Corp profits fall
16 Jul 01 | Entertainment
Murdoch heads media power list
18 Jan 01 | Entertainment
Murdoch targets UK Asians
03 Dec 01 | Business
China's cable TV shake up
09 Jan 01 | Asia-Pacific
China lets in BBC TV
23 Feb 01 | Media reports
Pirate Chinese TV defies state
22 Jun 01 | TV and Radio
Chinese reality TV attracts thousands
28 Mar 01 | TV and Radio
Murdoch: Still going strong at 70
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