Chinese state-owned media facing same challenges as Western journalists

Auskar Surbakti
ABC News, 7 November 2014

China’s state-controlled media is not being spared the new media challenges facing its Western counterparts, as publications contend with financial challenges and government influence.

Video: Digital media challenges journalism in China (The World)

An explosion of traditional and online media outlets – all controlled by the government – has flooded the largest media market in the world.

But Chu Xiaoling, deputy chief editor of the Beijing Daily Group, said newspapers were still under pressure to make money and were feeling the pinch of online media.

“We still don’t have a big audience in new media – maybe just five percent of our total readership – but we have seen a 15 to 20 per cent decline in advertising revenue,” she said.

“Right now, our newspapers rely heavily on traditional print advertising revenue [and] advertising in digital media so far isn’t enough to cover our costs.

“We do use social media such as WeChat and Weibo to promote our stories, but we’re yet to see the impact of that and we don’t charge for our online content.”

Despite the financial challenges, the growth in China’s media has also seen a boom in students studying journalism.

Yang Ying, a student at Beijing’s Tsinghua University, said there were financial challenges for those considering entering the media as well.

“The working environment for journalists is quite tough and the pay is not very high,” she said.

“If you want to be a journalist, you have to be a dreamer or something like that.

“There are also restrictions on media in China sometimes.”

Censorship issues affecting current and prospective journalists

With the government controlling all traditional media in China, both current and prospective journalists also feel those restrictions.

Video: Chinese journalism students discuss challenges (The World)

Ms Chu said the Beijing Daily Group was in constant contact with government officials regarding the content of the paper.

“From time to time, they may ask us not to publish certain news, but at the end of the day, it’s up to the editor-in-chief,” she said.

“When we cover important issues, we might present those stories to government officials for accuracy and clarification because our newspapers are led by China’s Communist Party.

“We don’t tend to do that with cultural or social stories though.”

Journalism students say the emergence of new media is allowing more access to information and freedom of communication.

Liu Moxiao said all journalists around the world face pressure from the government over their reporting – not just those in China.

“[But] especially nowadays, China’s investigative reporting is thriving and we have many famous investigative reporters who have unveiled big news,” she said.

“China is a big market – it is too big [with] too many news stories, and there are many bad news stories.

“I think journalists are watchdogs all around the world.”

This article was originally published here.

Auskar Surbakti was in China for the China Australia Journalist Exchange 2014.