|New CCTV boss Hu Zhanfan|
In an event sponsored by the China National Media Association, Hu told his colleagues that "the first social responsibility and professional ethic of media staff should be understanding their role clearly as a good mouthpiece". He added journalists were kidding themselves if they thought they were independent professionals rather than "propaganda workers".
He warned that those who did not understand this concept "would not go far".
Hu's words were posted on Weibo, China's version of Twitter and response was swift. Some 10,000 comments were made, most of which were quickly erased by censors. "As a media student I feel very depressed," said one with the web name Bao Xiaomao. "People who are obviously doing advertising claim that they are doing news."
Jiao Guobiao, a former professor of media and journalism at Peking University who fell from grace in 2004 after challenging the central propaganda department, said Hu spoke his mind in a relaxed meeting with his peers. "Whether you study journalism or work as a journalist, you are told this mantra over and over again, that you work for the Party and are its mouthpiece. The problem is that only the Party gets a mouthpiece, the public does not get a mouthpiece," he said.
What Jiao says is what employees in state-run media are told in lectures by their editors and senior officials. They are told to serve the Party first -- which means all news should put the Party in a good light before telling the truth. The central propaganda department will contact editors apparently by phone -- to avoid leaving a paper trail -- and instruct them on what can and cannot be reported.
So reporters in state media are basically "cultural workers", propagating the Party's objectives, even in what should be a straight-forward news story. Always have to throw in how the people, economy and society have benefited from the Party.
And when referring to the outrage by young people on the internet, Jiao says: "Kids born in the 1980s and 1990s obviously are not aware of how the system works, so they get angry and indignant. The paradox is that the media has borrowed the Western concepts of objectivity and neutrality, but put them in the service of propaganda. Hopefully things will change in five to 10 years time."
Interestingly Jiao does not explain what kind of change he is talking about...
The person controlling the strings in the propaganda department, Li Changchun had this to say in his speech to the All-China Journalists Association in October.
"The journalistic front must have a high sense of political responsibility and historical mission, deeply studying, propagating and implementing the spirit of the sixth plenum of the 17th Central Committee in order to promote the great advancement and flourishing of socialist culture," he said.
What does that mean? See above.