Sunday :: Aug 28, 2005

China Out-FOX-es Rupert

by pessimist

While admittedly an extreme move by an extreme entity, the People's Republic of China has demonstrated that Rupert Murdoch is not all powerful outside of the former British Empire:

Murdoch's assault on Chinese TV is interrupted by state crackdown

Rupert Murdoch's plans to expand News Corporation's operations in China have suffered a major setback in the wake of a Chinese government crackdown on foreign media companies.

China's broadcast regulator, the State Administration of Radio, Film and TV (Sarft), recently announced it would reinforce rules to stop Chinese broadcasters from co-operating with foreign media.

China's Ministry of Culture said it had tightened restrictions for reasons of "national cultural safety".

Kind of reminds one of US Ally Saudi Arabia, doesn't it? Doesn't it?

Sure it does.

Under Chinese regulations, foreign broadcasters are allowed to show their channels only in hotels and approved residential compounds. They must also sell and transmit signals through a state-run company.

News Corp is one of the first foreign companies to be directly affected. Its Asian satellite TV subsidiary, Star TV, has been forced out of a potentially lucrative joint venture with the Chinese broadcaster Qinghai TV, in which it had planned to offer Chinese-language programming nationwide. It would have seen News Corp move towards its goal of tapping into mainland China's $6bn (£3.3bn) TV industry.

This is not the only problem for News Corp and Star, which was acquired in 1994 for $525m. A Chinese company, Beijing Hotkey, is accused of illegally leasing satellite TV channels from Star and is being investigated by the authorities.

News Corp has worked hard to expand in China. Besides Star, it has a stake in the Hong Kong-based Phoenix Satellite. According to Media Partners Asia, Phoenix is the biggest foreign player in China's TV industry, with a turnover of $130m. Star generates around $20m.

One well-placed observer said the crackdown was part of a campaign to rein in the media: "When it comes to maintaining stability, the new leadership is willing to go to any lengths."

And even the Mighty Rupert Murdoch - Scourge of anyone to the left of Benito Mussolini - can't make his Irresistible Force act play well in the Land of the Immoveable Objection.

Wise progressive minds might well take note.

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