x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Chinese web users critical of remarks from new head of state TV

Web users lash out at over a speech in which Hu Zhanfan said journalists were "propaganda workers".

BEIJING // Thousands of Chinese web users have criticised the new head of the state-run China Central Television (CCTV) network over a speech in which he said journalists were "propaganda workers".

Hu Zhanfan - who was appointed to the top post at CCTV in November - said in May that journalists who defined themselves as "professionals" rather than "propaganda workers" were making a "fundamental mistake about identity".

"The first social responsibility and professional ethic of media staff should be understanding their role clearly and be a good mouthpiece," said the former chief editor of the state-owned national newspaper Guangming Daily.

China's ruling Communist Party would insist on "politicians running newspapers" and those in the media who gave "up the position of mouthpiece ... will never go far", Hu warned at an event hosted by the China National Media Association.

Hu's remarks were published by the official Xinhua news agency at the time but appear only to have caught the attention of web users today after one posted the Xinhua report on Weibo, China's equivalent of Twitter.

Tens of thousands of bloggers flooded social networking sites to criticise Hu's remarks and bemoan the lack of independent media in China.

"As a media student, I feel very depressed," said a web user called Bao Xiaomo. "People who are obviously doing advertising claim that they are doing news."

Another blogger said the speech showed that the needs of the Communist Party would always be considered more important than those of the people and the country.

Hu "learnt this well, and that is why he can be promoted as director of CCTV," the post said.

Hu's appointment was the latest in a string of recent leadership changes in organisations controlled by China's ruling Communist party.

He took the helm weeks after reports that the broadcaster of 37 channels was planning a major global expansion.

Beijing has earmarked ¥45 billion (Dh26bn) to fund the expansion of state-owned media groups including CCTV, Xinhua and China Radio International, according to previous reports.

CCTV reportedly plans to open studios in North America and Africa, each with more than 200 staff.

Last month China's Communist leaders called on the culture industry - a broad term taken to include the media - to raise its game and promote the Asian nation abroad as Beijing continues its "soft power" drive.