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Mass Media in China

China’s electronic mass media are regulated by the State Administration of Radio, Film, and Television, a subordinate agency of the Ministry of Information Industry. The Chinese Communist Party’s Propaganda Department traditionally has played a large role as arbiter of standards for appropriate broadcasts. The People’s Broadcasting Station transmits radio broadcasts in standard Chinese (Putonghua) and the various dialects and minority languages throughout China.

In 2004, 282 domestic radio stations and 774 short- and medium-wave radio relaying and transmitting stations operated, and many stations provided Internet access to some of their broadcasts. China National Radio, headquartered in Beijing, transmits programs in standard Chinese, Kazakh, Korean, Mongolian, Tibetan, and Uygur. China Radio International, also headquartered in Beijing but with domestic service branches in major cities, broadcasts in 43 foreign languages and several Chinese dialects.

Television service is provided by China Central Television (CCTV) in Beijing along with extensive local daily programming and Internet access by viewers to scheduling, reviews, and programming. By 2001 CCTV had 33 local affiliates, along provincial lines, with areas such as Fujian and Shanghai having two stations.

China Education Television (CETV) also is used for distance learning. Cable television was reaching 114.7 million households, or about 95 percent of the population, by the end of 2004. The government has been active in regulating newspapers in the twenty-first century. Although foreign investment in local news media was permissible by 2002, the government closed down 673 unprofitable state-run newspapers in 2003 and in 2004 banned subscription newspapers and periodicals.

The major national newspaper, Renmin Ribao (People’s Daily), was established in 1948 as the main organ of the Chinese Communist Party, has a print circulation of nearly 2.2 million, and offers overseas editions and Internet access in foreign languages. Other major newspapers published in Beijing are Gongren Ribao (Workers’ Daily), Nongmin Ribao (Farmers’ Daily), Zhongguo Qingnian Bao (China Youth News), Guangming Ribao (Bright Daily), Jiefangjun Bao (Liberation Army Daily), and Zhongguo Ribao (China Daily). There are two major newspapers published outside of Beijing: Jiefang Ribao (Liberation Daily), published in Shanghai, and Nanfang Ribao (Southern Daily), published in Guangzhou. These newspapers have circulations of between 300,000 and 2.5 million and also include Internet editions. China had more than 2,000 other newspapers in publication in 2006.

China published 208, 294 books, with a total print run of 6.4 million volumes, in 2004 and printed 2,119 newspapers with a total average circulation of 190.7 million in 2003. Even more widely distributed were China’s 9,074 magazines, which in 2003 rose to an average circulation of 199 million copies and probably more since both newspapers and magazines typically are traded among multiple readers, and newspapers often are posted on community bulletin boards for passers-by.

The Ministry of Information Industry regulates access to the Internet while the Ministry of Public Security and the Ministry of State Security monitor its use. A broad range of topics that authorities interpret as potentially subversive or as slanderous to the state, including the dissemination of anti-unification information or “state secrets” that may endanger national security, are prohibited by various laws and regulations. Promoting “evil cults” (a term used for Falun Gong) is banned, as is providing information that “disturbs social order or undermines social stability.”

Internet service providers (ISPs) are restricted to domestic media news postings and are required to record information useful for tracking users and their viewing habits, install software capable of copying e-mails, and immediately abort transmission of material considered subversive. As a result, many ISPs practice self-censorship to avoid violations of the broadly worded regulations.

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