China state broadcaster rebrands in international push

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BEIJING (AP) — State broadcaster Central China Television has rebranded its international networks and digital presence under the name China Global Television Network as part of a push to consolidate its worldwide reach.

CCTV on Friday unveiled several new mobile apps under the CGTN brand, and visitors to CCTV's non-Chinese language websites are directed to a new site. The broadcaster says 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 broadcaster published a congratulatory letter from President Xi Jinping on Saturday urging the newly launched CGTN to "tell China's story 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."

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.

The international-facing makeover will be extensive. CCTV's international newscasts will now carry CGTN logos, while CGTN has 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 of which are aimed at international audiences, because the platforms are all blocked inside China — have all been rebranded as CGTN.

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 himself during a high-profile tour of CCTV's Beijing headquarters in February when he urged journalists to ramp up their coverage of positive news and pledge complete loyalty to the party.

Major state media including CCTV and the official 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.

According to a 2009 South China Morning Post report, China's government planned to earmark 45 billion yuan ($6.5 billion) to help spread its message abroad. The spending was never officially confirmed, but in recent years CCTV and Xinhua have invested heavily in newsgathering and broadcasting and raising their international visibility.

In 2011, Xinhua leased a giant display in New York's Times Square that has, among other things, broadcast videos arguing China's position on the South China Sea territorial dispute.

The outlets have also deployed vast numbers of journalists to produce extensive daily reports from around the world, including from countries in the Middle East, Latin America and Africa where Western media presences are shrinking amid vanishing budgets.

Their swift inroads have at times raised concerns among some domestic media in Australia and politicians in the U.S. In early December, President Barack Obama signed into law a "counter-propaganda" bill that its sponsor, Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, said was aimed at propaganda from "Russia, China and other nations."

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