When the protest by ethnic minorities and Falun Gong practitioners appeared on the live feeds of the Communist Party’s CCTV international division (Global Television Network, CGTN), “there was panic in the newsroom, and all the bosses huddled together and shouted.” said an editor who worked at the agency.
Since the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the Communist Party has been expanding its so-called “soft power” internationally through CGTN, which has opened centers in Washington, D.C., Nairobi and London.
The Financial Times reported on June 20 that CGTN is an important project in the CCP’s geopolitical struggle. The Chinese Communist Party has invested significant resources in its own media group to spread the so-called “Chinese perspective” around the world.
However, as CGTN’s true role as the “mouthpiece of the Party” has come to light internationally, such as its distorted coverage of Hong Kong’s “anti-China” movement and its broadcast of “forced televised confessions,” the United States and the United Kingdom have taken steps to limit its influence. The U.S. and U.K. have taken steps to limit its reach, such as the decision by U.K. regulator Ofcom in February to revoke its broadcast license.
Most of the 12 former employees of CGTN interviewed by the Financial Times asked to remain anonymous, with some expressing fear of retaliation.
A former senior editor in Washington said he joined CGTN after being told it operated much like Western media, but he soon realized that executives transferred from Beijing “had much tighter control over the product” and “no Chinese (Communist Party) bad content was allowed in press releases or anchor scripts. ) bad content.” He said.
But CGTN’s editorial rules have sometimes led to confusion among staffers, such as during then-Vice President Xi Jinping’s visit to Washington, D.C., in 2012, when many Tibetan and Taiwanese protesters and Falun Gong practitioners protested, sparking debate in the CGTN newsroom about how to cover the story.
The initial editorial idea was to cover the protesters with “red everywhere,” but when former reporter Jessica Stone went live, the protesters were so loud she couldn’t pretend they weren’t there and had to mention them.
At that point, “there was panic in the newsroom, and all the bosses huddled together and started yelling.” A former editor said that several staffers involved in the broadcast later promised in a private meeting that the situation would “never happen again.
Checking the politically correct “teachers” and “upstairs”
The Financial Times reports that producers, news anchors and editors who have worked at CGTN have spoken of so-called “teachers” in the newsroom who censor scripts politically.
Gary Anglebrandt, a retired proofreading editor, said, “There were always two or three people in the newsroom, and all the scripts were written by Chinese writers, then touched up by Western copy editors to make them more natural, and then checked for political correctness by the ‘teachers. checks its political correctness.”
Engelbrandt, who worked at CGTN from 2016 to 2019, had the job of checking scripts for grammatical and spelling errors and then passing the text to the “teacher” on duty who controlled the political correctness.
When it comes to things like “televised confessions,” Engelbrandt said, “I knew it would be futile to go to the producers and say, ‘Let’s not show this.'” “They would say, ‘This is from ‘upstairs (instructions), we have to show it.'”
This pressure from “upstairs,” as Engelbrandt describes it, is one of the main reasons for CGTN’s clashes with Western media regulators, the Financial Times analyzed.
According to a Pew Research Center survey, the percentage of people with a “favorable” view of China (the Communist Party) has fallen sharply over the past decade, especially in countries where CGTN has established a presence.
And Western countries such as the United States and the United Kingdom have become more critical of the Communist Party, especially during the administration of former President Donald Trump. “The only area where CGTN has been able to succeed is in Africa,” said a former adviser to the agency, while its outreach in the United States has been “almost a disaster.