China chases Arabic viewers

Chris Forrester and Rose Major

The Arab League says there are some 350m Arab people living in the Middle East and North Africa, stretching from Oman in the East to Mauritania in the West. China is going after these potential viewers with a new Arabic-language news channel. And the Chinese have created a massive budget to help spread the Chinese message. The channel went ‘live’ on Saturday.

China’s broadcast vehicle is CCTV, and its new channel “will serve as an important bridge to strengthen communication and understanding between China and Arab countries,” said a CCTV vice president, Zhang Changming, in a statement.

The 24-hour service joins CCTV9, the broadcaster’s English-language channel, and French and Spanish-language channels in trying to project an image of China that the People’s Republic government would like to have fixed in other countries’minds.

Jiao Li, president of CCTV, said: “The launch of the Channel is a great step forward in the process of strengthening CCTV's international communications capacity. The channel, covering 22 Mideast countries and nearly 300 million people, will greatly enhance our global influence.”

The Arabic channel will carry news, feature stories, entertainment and education programs and will gradually expand its offerings, CCTV said. The Chinese have already announced plans for a Russian channel.
The new channel is available from Arabsat and Nilesat. There are, however, almost two dozen rival news channels already available to Arabic viewers, and the majority of these produced by local talent, not least Al Jazeera and Al-Arabia.