Monday, 2 June 2014

Newsworthy Catch

Guo Zhenxi of CCTV is the current target of a corruption probe
China's graft busters are on a roll, this time targeting a senior executive with state broadcaster CCTV.

Guo Zhenxi, 49, China Central Television's financial news channel director, and is producer Tian Liwu, are suspected of accepting bribes and were taken into custody.

Apparently there was no advance warning Guo would be detained, which shows anti-corruption czar Wang Qishan playing his cards close to his chest.

Seems that Guo's career blossomed with CCTV, having joined this state media outlet in 1992 as a financial journalist and then crossing over to the business side to become deputy chief of advertising in 1998, according to Caixin.

Then between 2005 and 2009, he was both CCTV's advertising chief and head of its financial news channel, CCTV-2. He gave up the marketing role in 2009, but it is very unusual and not to mention unethical for someone in a news organization to hold those two positions at the same time. No wonder CCTV has lost its integrity...

Every year the state broadcaster holds auctions for advertisers to bid the highest price for prime time slots, particularly the Spring Festival Gala and other events when it is believed people tune into the TV.

In 2002, CCTV advertising slots raised 2.6 billion yuan but by 2009 it was a whopping 9.3 billion yuan. Last year it was 15.9 billion yuan.

Editorially, Guo was responsible for two popular shows. One was Chinese Annual Economic Figures, where top business leaders who appeared on the show gained a lot of exposure.

The other program was the consumer rights show 315 Gala, referring to Consumer Rights Day on March 15. The show sends reporters undercover to reveal irregular business practices. In recent years the targets have been foreign companies. Starbucks was the victim last year for allegedly overcharging customers in China more than anywhere else in the world.

The accusation was criticized by netizens who said the American coffee company had every right to charge whatever it wanted, and that there were other issues that deserved reporting instead.

Some academics are not surprised by Guo's detention. "With his powerful position within this powerful organization -- which enjoys a national television monopoly -- you can imagine how many people stand in line to bribe him," said Deng Yuwen, a former deputy editor for the Central Party School's Study Times.

"The content-providing departments should be separate from those overseeing commercial interests," added Zhang Zhian, a professor of journalism at Sun Yat-sen University.

We will be watching Guo's case with interest, to find out how much money he allegedly fleeced CCTV and how he managed to hold two positions at the same time. Perhaps this event will be the turnaround for CCTV's battered integrity?

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