China has launched a 24-hour Arabic-language television channel aimed at addressing "distorted" views of China in the Middle East and North Africa.
The satellite channel, launched on Saturday, is expected to reach about 300 million people in 22 countries. China Central Television (CCT already broadcasts foreign language channels in English, Spanish and French. Zhang Changming, deputy president of CCTV, said that through the Arabic channel "the world can know China and China can know the rest of the world even better". "Our principle is to be real, to be objective, to be accurate and transparent. CCTV will present the world with the real China," he said at the launch. The channel will mainly broadcast news, but Zhang promised it would also feature entertainment and educational programmes.
Ying Chan, the director of Hong Kong University's journalism and media studies centre, told Al Jazeera that China saw the channel as a way to counter "unfair" portrayls of China in the international media. "There's no question that the Middle East is a very strategic area and China wants its voice heard there," she said.
"They want to announce their policies more to the world, and they also felt that the international media, led by the Western media, has not been fair to China." China exerts a great deal of control over its media and often censors the reporting of sensitive topics. "It [CCTV] will face challenges in how much it will allow its own reporters to report news as it is, as it happened," Ying said. "I think CCTV, in order to gain influence, has to deliver good journalism."
CCTV has also said it plans to open more foreign bureaus. The Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post newspaper reported that Beijing was prepared to put 45 billion yuan ($6.6bn) into the development of its media, an amount which could not be confirmed by Chinese sources. China's Arabic language channel joins other foreign government media networks broadcasting in Arabic. The UK's BBC launched its Arabic channel last year and the US set up al-Hurra, an Arabic-language channel based in Virginia, in 2004.
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