(Chinese Central Television)
Chinese television is defined by the organization CCTV or Chinese Central Television. The national sector was split into a four-level system in 1982/3—national, provincial, prefectural city and county—all under the aegis of the newly instituted Ministry for Broadcasting and Television (now subsumed into SARFT—State Administration for Radio, Film and Television). Although each level enjoys varying degrees of local programming content, each is linked to the CCTV network, and is obliged to screen CCTV news at least once a day.
The Chinese television industry began on 1 May 1958. Beijing TV, which would later became CCTV, was the first to broadcast, followed in the same year by Shanghai TV and Harbin TV. Beijing TV became a discrete entity in 1960 and was the leader in a rapid expansion of television access across China. Unsurprisingly perhaps, there was a significant hiccough in the late 1960s, when the chaos of the Cultural Revolution curtailed creative foreign imports. Nevertheless, Beijing TV began to broadcast in colour in the early 1970s, and its programming had become available in twenty-five provinces by the death of Mao in 1976. The station changed its name to CCTV in 1978, and an alternative municipal station (the current BTV) was set up to take over local-interest broadcasting for Beijing. The broadcaster is distinguished not only by its privileged access to public funding and screening quotas, but also by its breakdown of content by channel: for example, Channel 1 is the main news channel, Channel 5 carries sport and special events, Channel 4 is partly current affairs and partly English language summaries (now superseded by Channel 9). Channel 6 is a movie channel, and indicates the lasting but irritable relationship between the film and television arms of SARFT. Although SARFT is a single organization, it is bifurcated according to medium, and it is rumoured to be much easier to get content approvals for television than for film, so many talented filmmakers are moving to work in television.
Channel 9 (Zhongguo zhongying dianshetai) is the newest addition to the CCTV stable. It is an English-language channel and is devoted to highlighting international issues and the ‘basic policies and principles of the Chinese Government’. Its dictum is to provide a ‘reliable and authoritative source of information about China for a worldwide English-speaking audience’. The channel is therefore both fascinating and in need of decoding. It is explicitly designed to give the diplomatic, tourist and business communities information about China that is accurate in the neatest sense of the term. It is likely that the fiercest debates behind the scenes will be whether to employ media graduates with English or American accents and presentational style.
CCTV is a publicly funded service but it does carry advertising and it is also working to make links with foreign content providers, the idea being to exchange access to the Chinese market for Chinese programming in the American and European markets. This is where CCTV 9 would be most useful, but also where it needs to be reinvented if it wants to make an impact on foreign audiences.
Keane, Michael. ‘Send in the Clones: Television Formats and Content Creation in the People’s Republic of China’. In Donald, Keane and Yin Hong (eds), Media in China: Consumption, Content and Crisis. London: RoutledgeCurzon, 80–90.
Yin, Hong (2002). ‘Meaning, Production, Consumption: The History and Reality of Television Drama in China’. In Donald, Keane and Yin Hong (eds), Media in China: Consumption, Content and Crisis. London: RoutledgeCurzon, 28–39.
Yu, Hang and Green, Anthony (2000). ‘From Mao to the Millennium: 40 Years of Television in China’. In David French and Michael Richards (eds), Television in Contemporary Asia. New Delhi: Sage.

Encyclopedia of contemporary Chinese culture. . 2011.

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