China's biggest national news agency announced ambitious plans Thursday to launch a television news network in Asia and some European countries in the new year, part of efforts to expand the Communist government's media influence abroad.
Starting Jan. 1, China Xinhua News Network Corp. (CNC) will broadcast TV programs in Chinese around the clock, including news segments and special bulletins, the agency said. A CNC Finance and Business channel will be launched at the same time. It did not immediately say what countries would receive the channel.
"The launch of the CNC is an important move for Xinhua to enrich the agency's business sectors, and embrace the multimedia world," Xinhua President Li Congjun said at a launching ceremony in Beijing.
China has multibillion-dollar plans to raise the profile of its state media abroad by expanding Xinhua, state broadcaster China Central Television and the Communist Party newspaper People's Daily. Chinese authorities often express disapproval of much of the international coverage of events in China. They accuse international media organizations of being biased and focusing on negative news.
The effort has a budget of 45 billion yuan ($6.6 billion), according to a report earlier in 2009 by the Hong Kong newspaper South China Morning Post.
CNC World News plans to broadcast English programs from July. News in French, Spanish, Portuguese, Arabic and Russian will start later, Xinhua said.
The agency, a ministry-level body under the administration of the State Council, China's Cabinet, said it is transforming itself into a multimedia, worldwide news agency.
"Xinhua's expanding multimedia services make it possible to set up a TV network," Li said. "We will make efforts to expand both domestic and overseas services using all kinds of networks and media, including overseas TV channels, the Internet, mobile phones and LED screens."
In July, CCTV started a 24-hour channel airing in 22 Arabic-speaking countries, reaching a total population of nearly 300 million people.
All three state media organizations enjoy top-level party support and funding, along with virtual monopolies in certain sectors of their domestic markets.
China's rapid economic growth and rising global influence have not been accompanied by a freeing of the media. China has retained its authoritarian one-party political system with strict limits on freedom of speech and civil and political life.
The media drive echoes efforts by Russia and Qatar to influence international news coverage through their state-funded Russia Today and Al-Jazeera channels. Those attempts to challenge the BBC and CNN have scored some success.