The anxiety of China's Bureau of Broadcasting and Film

2007-08-27 - chong

Originally published in Chinese at my1510 by bonnae

China's Bureau of Broadcasting and Film (BBF) refuses to keep silent and has new policy. During late July and early August, some Chinese audience are not able to watch programs from the Phoenix TV. Despite the Beijing government's emphasis on “harmony”, BBF's action aroused people's strong reaction and the attention of Hong Kong, Taiwan and western media before the 17th National Congress of the Communist Party Representatives (17th NCCPR). BBF, in the name of “market competition and political solution”, bans all cable TV services providing “illegal” satellite programs. BBF sees it as a measure of “national security”. It takes “political consideration” to “strengthen management”.

In the “Technological Development Forum of the International Exposition of Audio-visual Media”, Zhang Haitao, BBF's vice-director, emphasized that the content of broadcasting and its medium could not be separated, particularly the mobile multimedia broadcasting (namely mobile phone TV). As Zhang said, the central government has made it explicitly that BBF will be in charge of it. The Jinghua Daily, affiliated to the People's Daily, made a headline: “BBF competes for regulating mobile phone TV”.

In my article titled “Syndrome of Disgusting CCTV”, I argued that the state monopoly of discursive power is a form of ideological control over people's thought. The existence of CCTV is a medium for monopolizing state discursive power.

Before the 17th NCCPR, the government's opinion on striking electronic media outside China is only a beginning. Unfortunately, the Phoenix TV is only the biggest victim of this policy. Some critics see the Phoenix TV, in line with the policies of the Beijing government, making no difference from CCTV. Why couldn't the BBF tolerate it? CCTV might be the reason. CCTV is a government TV station, having dominated the industry for decades. It saw itself as the “Big Brother” of the industry. Yet, with such a great amount of resources in hands, it acts like an arrogant tyrant. It has lost its credibility among people and turned into a mouthpiece of the ruling party.

CCTV has been giving advices to the Central Propaganda Department and BBF on restraining the Phoenix TV's development in China. It is not new to Chinese media. What at stake is economic conflict and market competition. Although the advertisement revenue of the Phoenix TV is much less than CCTV, it is highly possible that it would threaten CCTV's market postion.

In the process of marketization, CCTV made use of its monopolized resources to become a vested interest group. The current institutions of TV, broadcasting and newspaper encourage the state-owned media not to improve themselves and prepare for changes. The government departments in charge of ideology do not push them to improve in response to the audience's views. Instead, the government frequently uses administrative power to intervene the market.

In the promising and influential market of the new media, the conservative BBF remains dominant. But now its opponent is not the weak TV media outside China but the telecommunications industry guided by the Ministry of Information Industry (MII). Both BBF and MII are great forces pushing the new media market forward. But before the market is built up, the intense and embarrassing conflicts between these two departments occurs. It shows a lack of trust between government departments, particularly in the key interest distribution. No consensus is reached. The competition in industries is economically oriented. Behind them is the hidden war on regulating new media between BBF and MII.

No matter in the issue of restraining foreign media or that of new media regulation, the BBF is so outdated that it looks very embarrassing and ugly. It is an authority relying on issuing order and banning new things. It fails to provide any good solution for governing the industries of broadcasting and film. How could its credibility be sustained?

Without competition, there will be no progress. BBF is so unresponsive to the complicated interest structure and resorts to the single measure of censorship. In the wave of new media development, it feels panic and fails to take systematic measures. All these are part of the syndrome of anxiety. When the rigid administrative orders encounter the flexible market, could the BBF be immune from it? May God bless you.