Friday, October 8, 2010

Murdoch and Chinese Phoenix Television

Phoenix InfoNews Chanel is a part of the Phoenix Television family-made up of Phoenix InfoNews, Phoenix Chinese Chanel, and Phoenix Movie Chanel. InfoNews Chanel was the first 24 hour news network to broadcast across the Greater China region which includes Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau, and importantly mainland China. The station broadcasts out of Hong Kong in Mandarin. The news channel seeks to provide updates and financial news from around the world. Phoenix Satellite Television was launched on March 31, 1996. InfoNews followed a few years later, in 2001. The station is now available in over 150 countries via satellite.[1]

What makes it special, though, is its access and friendly relations with the government of the People’s Republic of China. It is named as one of only a few privately owned companies that are allowed to broadcast into Mainland China. In this way, it opens up the mainland to content that is not broadcast by the government-run media.[2] For example, InfoNews was the only Chinese channel to broadcast live coverage of the 9/11 attacks and had exclusive interviews with both Secretary Colin Powell and President George W. Bush during their visits to China. The Financial Times stated, Phoenix “enjoys rare access into China, which has been denied to other foreign broadcasters.” [3]

The company seeks to give China and the Pan-Asian region a distinctly global view. CEO and founder Liu Changle is quoted saying, “ [Phoenix TV] is developing a global outlook and independent of local political attachment." [4] This same wording is reflected on the company’s home website in

English, “Phoenix seeks to transcend the various components of the Greater China and offer Chinese

viewers a media service that is global in outlook and independent of local political attachments.” [5]

But Phoenix InfoNews is also part of a bigger trend in the world of global media of mergers and conglomerations. Phoenix is a part of the News Corporation family, the company of media giant Rupert Murdoch. McChesney lists News Corp as holding 45 percent interest in Phoenix satellite television. [6] The company has gone public and Wikipedia lists its ownership as follows:

“Phoenix Satellite Television holdings Ltd is a public limited company. Shareholders include Today's Asia Ltd. with 37.5% of the company, China Mobile Hong Kong Company Limited with 19.9%, Xing Kong Chuan Mei Group Co., Ltd. (wholly-owned by News Corporation) with 17.6%, China Wise International Ltd. with 8.3% and the public with 16.7%.” [7]

Some theorists see this trend of interlocking ownership and global ownership as not a new globalized media system but rather a triumph of global capitalism. [8] It’s not a trend that has gone un-criticized. Murdoch and his global reach are often looked down upon. But Phoenix InfoNews is an example of a success—an alternative, free press broadcaster into mainland China.

But the access may come at a price in self-censorship as well. In 1993, Murdoch got into trouble with China over his statement that “[new communication technologies] were a threat to totalitarian regimes everywhere.”[9] and that Chinese leadership could not survive the rise of satellite communication. Since those statements, however, Murdoch has, as McChesney puts it, “bent over backwards to appease” [10] Chinese leadership. McChesney criticizes Phoenix’s journalism with an example of a Phoenix reporter questioning Chinese premier Zhu Rongii, starting off with “ ‘You are my idol.’” [11] Perhaps this should not be surprising, as CEO and founder Liu Changle was a colonel in the People’s Liberation Army and worked to produce propaganda for the government during the Cultural Revolution. [12]

Phoenix InfoNews Chanel, and the larger Phoenix Television are certainly examples of the growth of international news media around the globe. Whether the company is completely successful in its goals to be free from local politics, and in a greater sense, free from the motives of economic growth over journalistic integrity is not clear.

[1] “Welcome to,”

[2] “Phoenix Television - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia,”; “Phoenix InfoNews Channel - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia,”

[3] Robert McChesney, “The Media System Goes Global,” in International Communication: A Reader (Oxon: Routledge, 2010), 211.

[4] “Phoenix InfoNews Channel - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.”

[5] “Welcome to,”

[6] Robert McChesney, “The Media System Goes Global,” 200.

[7] “Phoenix InfoNews Channel - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.”

[8] Koichi Iwabuchi, “Taking "Japanization" Seriously: Cultural Globalization Reconsidered,” in International Communication: A Reader (Oxon: Routledge, 2010), 410-433; Robert McChesney, “The Media System Goes Global.”

[9] Robert McChesney, “The Media System Goes Global,” 201.

[10] Ibid., 211.

[11] Ibid.

[12] “Phoenix Television,”

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