China Central Television (CCTV), Beijing’s largest TV network, said it would launch a new global media platform on New Year’s Day to help re-brand China overseas.
The new multilingual operation will have six TV channels and a new media agency, the network said on its website on Friday night. Its CCTV News channel will be rebranded the China Global Television Network.
China has launched a number of “soft power” initiatives to expand its influence abroad, including other English-language media outlets.
President Xi Jinping, in a congratulatory letter, urged the new network to “tell China stories well, spread China’s voice well, let the world know a three-dimensional, colorful China, and showcase China’s role as a builder of world peace”.
As part of the move, CCTV has rebranded its international networks and digital presence under the name China Global Television Network to consolidate its worldwide reach.
CCTV also unveiled several new mobile apps under the CGTN brand, and visitors to CCTV’s non-Chinese language websites were directed to a new http://www.cgtn.com site.
The broadcaster said it made the move to “integrate resources and to adapt to the trend of media convergence”, with foreign language channels, video content and digital media falling under the new group.
The government has long grumbled about the Western news media’s hold on international discourse and has spent vast sums in recent years to enhance its own influence and shape global opinion, with CCTV as one of its spearheads.
The broadcaster has channels in English, Arabic, French, Spanish and Russian and production centers in Washington and Nairobi.
Chen Lidong, a CCTV official, said the rebranding would not affect domestic operations.
But the international-facing makeover will be extensive. CCTV’s international newscasts will now carry CGTN logos, while CGTN unveiled two new smartphone apps: one that contains mostly news articles and one for live broadcasts.
CCTV’s social media accounts on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and Tumblr – all aimed at international audiences, because the platforms are all blocked inside China – were rebranded as CGTN overnight.
In the past year, Xi has tightened the ruling Communist Party’s control over state media outlets while re-articulating their core mission to serve as the government’s mouthpiece.
Xi memorably sat in the evening news anchor’s chair during a high-profile tour of CCTV’s Beijing headquarters in February, when he urged journalists to ramp up coverage of positive news and pledge complete loyalty to the party.
CCTV and the Xinhua news agency have expanded aggressively in recent years with dual missions of becoming globally credible media heavyweights while sustaining their roles as vital propaganda organs of the Communist Party. China announced a plan in 2009 to spend 45 billion yuan ($6.5 billion) to help spread its message abroad.
Their swift inroads have at times prompted alarm. Australian MPs complained in September after the Communist Party’s propaganda chief flew to Sydney to witness deals signed between Chinese and Australian media that would see major Australian newspapers carry content produced by Beijing.