This week, Chinese Propaganda apparatchiks will gather in Beijing along with the heads of their international radio broadcaster, China Radio International (CRI) and a handful of representatives from radio stations around the globe, to announce the formation of a media cooperation network.
Essentially, the Chinese Government is attempting to persuade metropolitan radio networks around the world to pool their resources under the leadership of CRI.
You’d think that a process which involves courting international media networks would generate a lot of attention, but interestingly, this has flown almost entirely under the radar.
Although CRI doesn’t create headlines like the tub-thumping Global Times or have the kind of behind-the-scenes influence that is wielded by Xinhua, it’s among China’s most well-resourced media networks. They operate more than 70 overseas broadcast branches, they have around half that number of overseas bureaux, and they have partnerships with hundreds of radio stations worldwide, giving them impressive global reach. Unlike the Global Times and China Daily, CRI doesn’t need to generate revenue, so they’re not obligated to advertise. Because CRI operates in so many countries it has to find talent (of the appropriate language), technology and broadcast rights for each of these countries.
All of which adds up to a very expensive endeavour, which is the most likely reason behind their push to create this international radio forum, the creation of which falls on CRI’s 70th anniversary.
There are a number of reasons why CRI has less influence than other, much smaller media outlets. Because they don’t need to seek a profit they don’t need to garner as much attention. They don’t break much hard news, most of their original content is focused on travel or culture, with the rest being recycled from other media.
This is undoubtedly one of the reasons why CRI’s campaign to unite world radio networks under a resource sharing arrangement seems to be gaining little traction. There are few traces of the event online and none of the participants seem to be big players. Although there will undoubtedly be a lot of pomp and ceremony at the launch on the 3rd of December, the event is unlikely to make any major ripples worldwide.
Another likely reason is the fundamentally different attitude that the Chinese Government has towards media, when compared to stations overseas. CRI’s charter has always stressed reporting “from the Chinese perspective” (I find the ‘the’ rather telling, as it implies there is only one Chinese perspective).
Essentially, CRI wants radio stations around the world to help them de-fray their costs, and in return, they will share their content with them. CRI does indeed produce a significant amount of content every day, but given the fact that they’re unlikely to be producing any news that could be considered controversial to China, it is more likely to be attractive to lifestyle or culture radio networks, who will be able to access a large amount of content. Whether or not this will have any significant impact on CRI’s bottom line remains to be seen, but at this point it seems unlikely.