Two Billion Eyes: The Story of China Central Television

Overview


As China navigates the murky waters of a “third way” with liberal economic policies under a strict political regime, the surprising battleground for China’s future emerges in the country’s highest rated television network—China Central Television, or CCTV.

With 16 internationally broadcast channels and over 1.2 billion viewers, CCTV is a powerhouse in conveying Chinese news and entertainment. The hybrid nature of the network has also transformed it into an unexpected site of ...

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Two Billion Eyes: The Story of China Central Television

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Overview


As China navigates the murky waters of a “third way” with liberal economic policies under a strict political regime, the surprising battleground for China’s future emerges in the country’s highest rated television network—China Central Television, or CCTV.

With 16 internationally broadcast channels and over 1.2 billion viewers, CCTV is a powerhouse in conveying Chinese news and entertainment. The hybrid nature of the network has also transformed it into an unexpected site of discourse in a country that has little official space for negotiation. While CCTV programming is state sponsored—and censored—the popularity and profit of the station are determined by the people. And as the Chinese Communist Party seeks to exert its own voice on domestic and international affairs, the prospect of finding an amenable audience becomes increasingly paramount.

Through a series of interviews with a fascinating cast of power players including a director of a special topic program that incited the 1989 student movement, current and past presidents of CCTV, and producers at the frontline of the network’s rapidly evolving role in Chinese culture, celebrated media analyst Ying Zhu unlocks a doorway to political power that has long been shrouded in mystery.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Though it has become one of the most watched news networks in the world, China Central Television has largely escaped the notice of media commentators in the West. Chinese media specialist Ying offers the first book-length treatment of the subject in English, revealing an organization that, far from being just a dreary organ of propaganda, is vibrant and innovative, as well as internally divided and conflicted by the pressures of practicing journalism under authoritarianism. Utilizing far-ranging, candid interviews with many of the network’s leaders, staffers, and anchors, Ying shows how despite CCTV’s monopoly status, it is increasingly shaped by market forces. CCTV employees must balance their mission to deliver reliable and accurate coverage, their status as “mouthpiece of the state,” and their mandate to generate ad revenue. Yang Rui, the ultranationalist talk show host and star of CCTV’s English-language station, provides an object lesson in the business’s inherent tensions—both defending official censorship as serving the national interest and criticizing CCTV’s younger generation of employees as strivers unconcerned with journalistic ethics. Those unfamiliar with Chinese television may find the lengthy profiles of media personalities and programming snapshots to be tiresome, but Ying’s cogent analysis and penetrating insight are invaluable for anyone trying to understand the political and social reality of the world’s most populous country. (Nov.)
From the Publisher

"Ying’s cogent analysis and penetrating insight are invaluable for anyone trying to understand the political and social reality of the world’s most populous country."
Publishers Weekly

"A fascinating look at the news-entertainment-propaganda combine that plays a central role in how China understands itself, and is sure to play a larger role in China's relations with the outside world. I learned a lot about China, and about the news business, from this book."
—James Fallows, author of China Airborne

"Ying Zhu's compelling analysis of CCTV is very much an 'inside' story. . .We are given not just the best book to date about Chinese television, but a far better understanding of the role of media in China's still developing model of state-society relations."
—Stanley Rosen, professor of political science, University of Southern California

"Charged by the state with a global mission, and delivering everything from dramas and game shows to news, CCTV beams its programs from eight satellites to the world. Ying Zhu opens a window onto this complex, historically dynamic, and globally important institution. . . .Fascinating reading."
—Dan Schiller, author of Digital Capitalism: Networking the Global Market System

"A must-read insider account for anybody interested in contemporary Chinese media, Two Billion Eyes provides timely access to rarely heard personal voices from practitioners at CCTV. . .Zhu has proved herself again to be an innovative scholar."
—Yingjin Zhang, professor of Chinese, comparative literature, and cultural studies, University of California-San Diego

"If you want to know about the most important media institution in China, you have to read this book. Combining rare, in-depth interviews with fine-grained analysis, Zhu. . .makes a most significant contribution to our understanding of the complexity and ambitions of CCTV."
—Wanning Sun, professor of media studies, University of Technology, Sydney

"Two Billion Eyes opens a fascinating window onto the emergence of a Chinese public sphere, with its convergence of information, crisis, culture, politics, competition, personalities, and programming. A host of probing and stimulating interviews reveal the people at work within these developments and transform Western stereotypes about state monopoly into a glimpse of concrete history, the sense of a genuine historical process underway in the China of the last three decades."
—Fredric Jameson, professor of literature, Duke University

"The story of CCTV has never been told so fully, fascinatedly, and factually...Covering all dimensions of CCTV, from both historical and contemporary perspectives, Zhu’s book is remarkable for being scholarly and journalistic at the same time."
—John Lent, Temple University

Library Journal
All eyes are on China Central Television (CCTV) in this interview-based account of the Asian media conglomerate's conflicting roles and goals as the official mouthpiece of the Chinese Communist Party. Zhu (media culture, Coll. of Staten Island, CUNY; Television in Post-Reform China) traces the story of CCTV's evolution, from its rise to cultural prominence in the 1990s to its struggles with credibility and identity from the early 2000s to today. Drawing mostly on a series of original interviews with prominent Chinese media professionals—among them, influential CCTV news anchor Bai Yansong and eccentric variety show host Li Yong—Zhu succeeds first and foremost in capturing the complexities of life inside China's highly competitive yet politically restricted television industry. Consequently, what perhaps begins as the broader story of China Central Television becomes by the book's conclusion a somewhat eclectic if fascinating insight into the people who shape and will shape Chinese television, for better or for worse. VERDICT Recommended for scholars of contemporary China or Chinese media and for readers generally interested in international broadcasting.—Robin Chin Roemer, American Univ. Lib., Washington, DC
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781595584649
  • Publisher: New Press, The
  • Publication date: 10/2/2012
  • Pages: 304
  • Product dimensions: 6.52 (w) x 9.32 (h) x 1.03 (d)

Meet the Author


Ying Zhu is a professor of media culture at the City University of New York, College of Staten Island. The recipient of a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Humanities, she is the author or editor of seven other books, including Television in Post-Reform China and Chinese Cinema During the Era of Reform, and a co-producer of current affairs documentary films, including Google vs. China and China: From Cartier to Confucius. She resides in New York.
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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix

Introduction 1

1 Television as Cultural Control in China 11

2 A view from the Top: Managing the Commercial Revolution at CCTV 28

3 Making the News 54

4 Delivering the News: Profiles of Three News Anchors 75

5 Rise of the Powerful Nations and the Finance and Economics Channel 104

6 Xia Jun and Chen Xiaoqing: Documentarians and Critics Alike 120

7 The Cultivated and the Vulgar: Game Shows and Lectures 143

8 "Going Out" Via CCTV-International 169

9 Challenging CCTV's Domestic Dominance: Hunan Satellite Television and Phoenix TV 196

10 Half the Sky and Women's Programming 219

11 The New Nationalism: Covering the 2008 Beijing Olympics 240

Conclusion: China Central Television and the Chinese Model 255

Notes 267

Index 279

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