The Listening Post

China’s balancing act with the foreign media

We delve into the tensions between the Chinese government and the international media outlets that cover it.

Two weeks ago we looked at Beijing’s continuing efforts to maintain control of both its mainstream and social media scene.

This week, we delve deeper into the country’s relationship with the international media and the concerns authorities have inside China about how the country is covered from the outside.

On November 7, it was reported that the US-based financial news agency, Bloomberg, had self-censored reports on the business ties of senior government officials because of the implications the stories could have on Bloomberg’s working relationships within the country.

Bloomberg have since denied the allegation but it may be too little, too late – its website is already down in China after it published a story last year on the private wealth of relatives of China’s leader, Xi Jinping.

Talking us through China’s balancing act with the global media is Thompson Reuters China correspondent Paul Mooney; Sarah Cook, a senior research fellow at Freedom House; Michel Hock, the director at SOAS China Institute; and Demetri Sevastopulo, the South China regional correspondent for the Financial Times.

In this week’s Newsbytes: Turkish authorities sentence three journalists working for critical media outlets to life in jail, cementing its status as the world’s biggest prisoner of reporters; in Thailand, a webmaster loses her appeal against a conviction that triggered a debate about freedom of expression online; and Greek riot police storm the premises of the former state broadcaster, ERT.

Our feature this week’s takes us to the television screens of Colombia. Colombians love operas and their so-called telenovelas are broadcast across Latin America. But the content is changing – gone are romantic fairy tales and family dramas, Colombians are now tuning in to grittier tales of narco-trafficking – and they are doing so in droves.

Earlier this year there was one series on a crime family that drew heavy criticism, with commentators saying that the show made heroes out of the murderers and ignored the voices of the victims. But with ratings as high as they are, it’s unlikely networks will pull the plug on these shows any time soon. In the second half of the show, Listening Post’s Marcela Pizarro looks at the success – and the controversy – of this new genre.

Finally, our Video of the Week takes us underground once again. Sochi is host to the Winter Olympics next year and it has prompted someone in Russia to come up with a novel scheme that combines marketing with a fitness programme.

Muscovites using the Vystavochnaya station spotted a new ticket machine that offered free subway tickets in exchange for a little exercise. Passengers can save 30 roubles, by doing 30 leg squats. And the marketing scheme seems to be going pretty well, ‘Olympic Changes’ has become an online hit.


Listening Post can be seen each week at the following times GMT: Saturday: 0830, 1930; Sunday: 1430; Monday: 0430.

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