Television in the People's Republic of China

Television in the People's Republic of China

The television industry in the People's Republic of China has grown into a complete system with high-tech program production, transmission and coverage. China Central Television, China's largest and most powerful national television station, has established business relations with more than 250 television organizations in over 130 countries and regions.




When the People's Republic was founded in 1949, the telecommunications systems and facilities in China were outdated and rudimentary, and many had been damaged or destroyed during the war years. Communications in China were established rapidly in the early 1950s. By 1952 the principal telecommunications network centered on Beijing, and links to all large cities had finally been established, also launching television broadcasts. The first national broadcasts began on May, 1, 1958, and Beijing Television (now China Central Television since 1978) was formally launched on September 2, 1958. Liaoning Television, the first regional station, began operations a year later, on October 1, 1959, the 10th PRC National Day.

Growth in telecommunications halted with the general economic collapse after the Great Leap Forward (1958–60) but revived in the 1960s: radio-television service was installed in major cities in these years. By 1965 there were 12 television stations in mainland China (compared to approximately 700 conventional television stations and about 3,000 cable channels today). Similarly, in 1978, there was less than one television receiver per 100 people, and fewer than ten million Chinese had access to a television set (in 2003 there were about 35 TVs for every 100 people, and roughly a billion Chinese had access to television); expansion and modernization of the broadcasting systems continued throughout the late-1970s and early 1980s.


The Ministry of Radio and Television was established as a separate entity in 1982 to administer and upgrade the status of television and radio broadcasting. Subordinate to this ministry were the Central People's Broadcasting Station, Radio Beijing, and China Central Television. Additionally, the various broadcasting training, talent-search, research, publishing, and manufacturing organizations were brought under the control of the Ministry of Radio and Television. In 1986 responsibility for the movie industry was transferred from the Ministry of Culture to the new Ministry of Radio, Cinema, and Television.

Radio and television expanded rapidly in the 1980s as important means of mass communication and popular entertainment. By 1985 television reached two-thirds of the population through more than 104 stations (up from 52 in 1984 and 44 in 1983); an estimated 85 percent of the urban population had access to television. During this time, the content of the programming changed drastically from the political lectures and statistical lists of the previous period. Typical television shows were entertainment, including feature films, sports, drama, music, dance, and children's programming. In 1985 a survey of a typical week of television programming made by the Shanghai publication Wuxiandian Yu Dianshi (Journal of Radio and Television) revealed that more than half of the programming could be termed entertainment; education made up 24 percent of the remainder of the programming and news 15 percent. A wide cross section of international news was presented each evening. Most news broadcasts had been borrowed from foreign news organizations, and a Chinese summary was dubbed over. China Central Television also contracted with several foreign broadcasters for entertainment programs. Between 1982 and 1985, six United States television companies signed agreements to provide American programs to China.

China launched its first television-broadcast satellite in 1986.

In 1987 China Central Television (CCTV), the state network, managed China's television programs. In 1985 consumers purchased 15 million new sets, including approximately 4 million color sets. Production fell far short of demand. Because Chinese viewers often gathered in large groups to watch publicly owned sets, authorities estimated that two-thirds of the nation had access to television. In 1987 there were about 70 million television sets, an average of 29 sets per 100 families. CCTV had four channels that supplied programs to the over ninety television stations throughout the country. Construction began on a major new CCTV studio in Beijing in 1985. CCTV produced its own programs, a large portion of which were educational, and the Television University in Beijing produced three educational programs weekly. The English-language lesson was the most popular program and had an estimated 5 to 6 million viewers. Other programs included daily news, entertainment, teleplays, and special programs. Foreign programs included films and cartoons. Chinese viewers were particularly interested in watching international news, sports, and drama (see Culture of the People's Republic of China).


In September 1993, after acquiring the STAR TV satellite network, Rupert Murdoch publicly declared:[1]

"(telecommunications) have proved an unambiguous threat to totalitarian regimes everywhere ... satellite broadcasting makes it possible for information-hungry residents of many closed societies to bypass state-controlled television channels"

After this, the former prime minister Li Peng requested and obtained the ban of satellite dishes throughout the country. Subsequently the STAR TV network dropped the BBC channels from its satellite offer. This, and many ensuing declaration from Murdoch, led critics to believe the businessman was striving to appease the Chinese government in order to have the ban lifted.[1] It is also alleged that the PRC government was unhappy with BBC coverage and threatened to block STAR TV in the huge mainland Chinese market if the BBC was not withdrawn. This is despite technology that is capable of blocking BBC World in China, while making it available in other countries they serve.[2][3][4]


In 2001, the Chinese government put forward a goal of promoting media amalgamation by establishing trans-regional multi-media news groups. It also instituted detailed regulations on media industry fund raising, foreign-funded cooperation and trans-media development.

The State Administration of Radio, Film, and Television (SARFT), founded at the end of 2001, integrated the resources of central-level radio, television and film industry plus those of the radio and television, Internet companies into China's biggest and strongest multi-media group covering the fields of television, Internet, publishing, advertising, etc. At the same time Chinese media industry is cooperating with overseas media groups.

By 2003, 30 overseas television networks, including Phoenix Television, Bloomberg Television, STAR TV, Eurosport, BBC World, CNBC, and China Entertainment Television had entered into China with limitations. At the same time, the English language channel of CCTV entered the United States through Fox News Internet under the jurisdiction of News Corporation.

In conformity with trends in the international television industry, CCTV has made progress in the direction of specialization, introducing three specialized channels between 2003 and 2004, CCTV-News, CCTV-Children and CCTV-Music.

Since September 1, 2006, the Chinese government has banned foreign-produced animation between the hours of 5:00 to 8:00 P.M. on state-run television to protect struggling Chinese animation studios that have been affected by the popularity of such cartoons.[5]

Despite these advances, a considerable gap remains between the eastern coastal region and the Chinese hinterland, where television sets and regional broadcasters are far less common.


Altogether there are 3,000 television stations across the country. Large international TV expositions, including the Shanghai Television Festival, Beijing International Television Week, China Radio and Television Exposition and Sichuan Television Festival, are held on a regular basis.

Besides judging and conferring awards, these festivals conduct academic exchange and the import and export of TV programs. Shanghai has become the largest television program trading market in Asia.

Since China entered the World Trade Organization, the trend within China's media industry is to form inter-media and trans-regional media groups operated with multiple patterns so as to meet competition and challenges from powerful overseas media groups.


Television censorship is conducted by State Administration of Radio, Film, and Television of People's Republic of China (PRC) and targets the overseas programs (including those from Hong Kong and Macau), that can be watched in Mainland China. In addition receiving satellite TV signals without permission is against the law in Mainland China.[6]

Foreign and Hong Kong SAR news broadcasts in mainland China such as TVB, Phoenix TV, CNN, BBC World, BBC World Service, CNBC and Bloomberg Television are occasionally censored by being "blacked out" during controversial segments. CNN has reported that their broadcast agreement in China includes an arrangement that their signal must pass through a Chinese-controlled satellite. In this way, Chinese authorities have been able to blackout CNN segments at will.[7] CNN has also said that their broadcasts are not widely available in China, but rather only in certain diplomatic compounds, hotels, and apartment blocks.[8]

Blacked out content has included references to the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989,[7] the Dalai Lama,[7] the death of Zhao Ziyang,[9] the 2008 Tibetan unrest,[7] the Chinese milk scandal of 2008[10] and negative developments about the Beijing Olympics.[11]

During the Summer Olympics in Beijing all Chinese TV stations were ordered to delay live broadcasts by ten seconds, a policy that was designed to give censors time to react in case free-Tibet demonstrators or others staged political protests.[12] In January 2009, during a television report of the inauguration of U.S. President Barack Obama, the state-run China Central Television abruptly cut away from its coverage of Obama's address when he spoke of how "earlier generations faced down fascism and communism".[13]

Enforcement in television censorship is increasingly difficult and ineffective in the early part of the twenty-first century, partly due to satellite signal hacking systems that can be purchased in most major cities for as low as 2000 ¥ RMB ($285), which access channels and programs on many satellites serving the Asian Pacific region.[citation needed]

Digital technology

According to the Chinese government's plans, by 2010 the existing cable television in cities above county levels in eastern and middle parts of China as well as in most of cities over county level in western parts of the country will be digitalized. By 2015, the analog signals within the country will be generally stopped. In the meantime, the policies emphasize the continued amalgamation of the three networks of Internet, television and telecom.

To realize the above goals, NDRC, MII and SARFT will be responsible for organizing special projects for implementing digital television services. Support will be given to digital TV related enterprises' listings and more investment will be injected into them.

According to China's national strategy, the country aims to shift from a major television manufacturer to a digital television power during the development of digital television industry. The policies show that by 2010, the annual sales of China's digital television sets and related products will reach RMB250 billion and the export volume will reach US$10 billion. By 2015, China's digital television industry scale and technology level will rank among the top in the world and it will become one of the world's largest digital television set and key components development and production bases.

Cable television

Cable television in the usual transmission method in all urban areas of mainland China - television aerials are an extremely rare sight. Cable systems usually carry all the CCTV channels in Mandarin, plus all the channels of municipal, provincial or regional station in question (such stations are listed below). The remaining slots carry the main channels from several other province-level stations, and may carry additional channels from metropolitan stations such as BTV and Shanghai Media Group. They may also carry a local channel for a particular sub-provincial municipality, prefecture or county. Individual compounds (hotels, housing estates, etc.) often add a request channel showing karaoke music videos and animations. An extremely small number of compounds with many foreign residents (e.g. five star hotels in Beijing) will also carry selected channels from Hong Kong, Taiwan and the West. Phoenix Television has the widest carriage under this rule.

Mainland China had more than 44.5 million digital cable television users in 2008.[14]

Unlike many cable television operators in other countries that support two-way modes, China's cable television runs in a one-way mode (download only, no upload).

List of national networks and channels


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China Central Television

Name Hanzi Launch CNTV Ai Bugu (Online TV) a
CCTV-1 (General Channel) 中央综合 1958 CCTV-1
CCTV-2 (Finance Channel) 中央财经 1973 CCTV-2
CCTV-3 (Art Channel) 中央综艺 1989 CCTV-3
CCTV-4 (International Chinese Channel Asia) 中央中文国际 亚洲版 1992 CCTV-4 Asia
CCTV-4 (International Chinese Channel Europe) 中央中文国际 欧洲版 1992 CCTV-4 Europe
CCTV-4 (International Chinese Channel America) 中央中文国际 美洲版 1992 CCTV-4 America
CCTV-5 (Sports Channel) 中央体育 1994 CCTV-5
CCTV-6 (Movie Channel) 中央电影 1994 CCTV-6
CCTV-7 (Military & Agriculture Channel) 中央军事 农业 1994 CCTV-7
CCTV-8 (Television Series Channel) 中央电视剧 1994 CCTV-8
CCTV-9 (Chinese Documentary Channel) 中央纪录 中文 2010 CCTV-9 Chinese
CCTV-9 (English Documentary Channel) 中央纪录 英语 2010 CCTV-9 English
CCTV-10 (Education Channel) 中央科教 2001 CCTV-10
CCTV-11 (Opera Channel) 中央戏曲 2001 CCTV-11
CCTV-12 (Law & Society Channel) 中央社会与法 2005 CCTV-12
CCTV-13 (News Channel) 中央新闻 2005 CCTV-13
CCTV-14 (Children Channel) 中央少儿 2004 CCTV-14
CCTV-15 (Music Channel) 中央音乐 2004 CCTV-15
CCTV-NEWS 中央新闻英语国际 2000 CCTV-NEWS
CCTV-Français (International French Channel) 中央法语国际 2007 CCTV-Français
CCTV-Español (International Spanish Channel) 中央西班牙语国际 2007 CCTV-Español
CCTV-العربية (International Arabic Channel) 中央阿拉伯语国际 2009 CCTV-العربية
CCTV-русский (International Russian Channel) 中央俄语国际 2009 CCTV-русский
CCTV-22 (High-definition Channel) 中央高清 2008 CCTV-22

Provincial Satellite Television

Name Hanzi Origin Launch Owner CNTV Ai Bugu (Online TV) a
Anhui Satellite Television 安徽卫视 Anhui 1997 Anhui Television (AHTV) Anhui STV
Aniworld 金鹰卡通卫视 Hunan 2005 Hunan Broadcasting System (HBS)
Bingtuan Satellite Television 兵团卫视 Xinjiang 2009 Bingtuan Television (BTTV) Bingtuan STV
Beijing Satellite Television 北京卫视 Beijing 1979 Beijing Television (BTV) Beijing STV
Chongqing Satellite Television 重庆卫视 Chongqing 1997 Chongqing Broadcasting Group (CBG) Chongqing STV
Dragon Satellite Television 东方卫视 Shanghai 1998 Shanghai Media Group (SMG) Dragon STV
Gansu Satellite Television 甘肃卫视 Gansu 1998 Gansu Media Group (GSMG) Gansu STV
Guangdong Satellite Television 广东卫视 Guangdong 1960 Southern Media Corporation (SMC) Guangdong STV
Guangxi Satellite Television 广西卫视 Guangxi 1970 Guangxi Television (GXTV) Guangxi STV
Guizhou Satellite Television 贵州卫视 Guizhou 1998 Guizhou Television (GTV) Guizhou STV
Hebei Satellite Television 河北卫视 Hebei 1998 Hebei Television (HEBTV) Hebei STV
Heilongjiang Satellite Television 黑龙江卫视 Heilongjiang 1997 Heilongjiang Television (HLJTV) Heilongjiang STV
Henan Satellite Television 河南卫视 Henan 1996 Henan Television (HNTV) Henan STV
Hubei Satellite Television 湖北卫视 Hubei 1997 Hubei Network Radio and Television Hubei STV
Hunan Satellite Television 湖南卫视 Hunan 1997 Hunan Broadcasting System (HBS) Hunan STV
Jiangsu Satellite Television 江苏卫视 Jiangsu 1997 Jiangsu Broadcasting Corporation (JSBC) Jiangsu STV
Jiangxi Satellite Television 江西卫视 Jiangxi 1970 Jiangxi Television (JXTV) Jiangxi STV
Jilin Satellite Television 吉林卫视 Jilin 1997 Jilin Television (JLTV) Jilin STV
Kaku 卡酷动画卫视 Beijing 2004 Beijing Television (BTV)
Liaoning Satellite Television 辽宁卫视 Liaoning 1959 Liaoning Radio and Television (LRTV) Liaoning STV
Nei Mongol Satellite Television 内蒙古卫视 Inner Mongolia 1997 Nei Mongol Television (NMTV) Nei Mongol STV
Ningxia Satellite Television 宁夏卫视 Ningxia 1998 Shanghai Media Group (SMG) Ningxia STV
Qinghai Satellite Television 青海卫视 Qinghai 1997 Hunan Broadcasting System (HBS) Qinghai STV
Shandong Satellite Television 山东卫视 Shangdong 1994 Shandong Television (SDTV) Shangdong STV
Shannxi Satellite Television 陕西卫视 Shannxi 1997 Shaanxi Television Station (SXTVS) Shaanxi STV
Shanxi Satellite Television 山西卫视 Shanxi 2004 Shanxi Television (SXTV) Shanxi STV
Shenzhen Satellite Television 深圳卫视 Guangdong 2004 Shenzhen Media Group (SZMG) Shenzhen STV
Sichuan Satellite Television 四川卫视 Sichuan 2003 Sichuan Radio and Television Sichuan STV
Southeast Satellite Television 东南卫视 Fujian 1994 Fujian Media Group (FMG) Southeast STV
Television Southern 南方卫视 Guangdong 2000 Southern Media Corporation (SMC) Guangdong / overseas only
Strait Satellite Television 海峡卫视 Fujian 2005 Fujian Media Group (FMG) Fujian / overseas only
The Travel Channel 旅游卫视 Hainan 1999 Travel Channel Inc. The Travel Channel
Tianjin Satellite Television 天津卫视 Tianjin 1998 Tianjin Television (TJTV) Tianjin STV
Toonmax 炫动卡通卫视 Shanghai 2005 Shanghai Media Group (SMG)
Xiamen Satellite Television 厦门卫视 Fujian 2005 Xiamen Media Group XMG Xiamen STV
Xinjiang Satellite Television 新疆卫视 Xinjiang 1997 Xinjiang Television (XJTV) Xinjiang STV
Xizang Satellite Television 西藏卫视 Tibet 2002 Xizang Television (XZTV) Xizang STV
Yanbian Satellite Television 延边卫视 Jilin 2006 Yanbian Television (YBTV)
Yunnan Satellite Television 云南卫视 Yunnan 2000 Yunnan Television (YNTV) Yunnan STV
Zhejiang Satellite Television 浙江卫视 Zhejiang 1960 Zhejiang Television (ZJTV) Zhejiang STV

Non-local Chinese Satellite Television

Name Hanzi Launch Owner
Asia Television Home 亚洲电视本港 2002 Asia Television.,Ltd
China Entertainment Television 华娱卫视 1995 China Entertainment Television Broadcast.,Ltd
Macau Asia Satellite Television 澳亚卫视 2001 Macau Asia Satellite Television Co.,Ltd
Macau Lotus Television 澳门莲花卫视 2002 Macau Lotus Television Co.,Ltd
Phoenix Television InfoNews 凤凰卫视资讯 2001 Phoenix Satellite Television Holdings.,Ltd
Phoenix Television Movies 凤凰卫视电影 1998 Phoenix Satellite Television Holdings.,Ltd
Phoenix Television Chinese 凤凰卫视中文 1996 Phoenix Satellite Television Holdings.,Ltd
Phoenix Television Hong Kong 凤凰卫视香港 1996 Phoenix Satellite Television Holdings.,Ltd
Television Broadcasts Jade (City Network) 无线电视翡翠(市网) 2004 Television Broadcasts.,Ltd
Television Broadcasts Jade (Province Network) 无线电视翡翠(省网) 2004 Television Broadcasts.,Ltd
Xing Kong Television 星空卫视 2002 STAR Greater China.,Ltd


Hong Kong

Hong Kong has two broadcast television networks, ATV and TVB. The latter, launched in 1967, was the territory's first free-to-air commercial station, and is currently the predominant TV station in the territory. Paid cable and satellite television have also been widespread. The production of Hong Kong's soap drama, comedy series and variety shows have reached mass audiences throughout the Chinese-speaking world. Broadcast media and news is provided by several companies, one of which is government-run. Television provides the major source of news and entertainment for the average family.


Macau citizens can receive most of the terrestrial transmissions broadcast in Hong Kong.

See also


  1. ^ a b
  2. ^ Announcing The P.u.-litzer Prizes For 1994
  3. ^ "China lets in BBC TV". BBC News. 2001-01-09. Retrieved 2010-05-25. 
  4. ^ Star-TV (Hong Kong)
  5. ^ McDonald, Joe. China Bans 'Simpsons' From Prime-Time TV. Associated Press: August 13, 2006
  6. ^ "《卫星电视广播地面接收设施管理规定》实施细则". 广电总局. 新华网. 2003-05-31. Retrieved 2011-05-16. 
  7. ^ a b c d Vassileva, Ralitsa (2008-03-14). "China's media crackdown" (video). CNN. Retrieved 2008-03-16. 
  8. ^ Vause, John (2008-04-09). "San Francisco Torch Relay Broadcast". CNN. 
  9. ^ "News black-out on death of former top leader Zhao Ziyang". Reporters without Borders. 2005-01-28. Retrieved 2008-03-17. 
  10. ^ Raymond Li (16 September 2008). "Censorship hammer comes down over scandal". South China Morning Post, p. A5. 
  11. ^ Oconnor, Ashling (2008-03-10). "Haile Gebrselassie pulls out of Beijing marathon". The Times (London). Retrieved 2008-03-11. "News of the development is struggling to reach audiences in China, where transmissions of BBC World were mysteriously suspended when the station relayed the story." 
  12. ^ Barbara Demick (2009-01-22). "Chinese media censor Obama's inaugural speech". Los Angeles Times.,0,2705401.story. Retrieved 2009-03-18. 
  13. ^ Chris O'Brien (2009-01-21). "Obama's address censored in China". The Washington Times. Retrieved 2009-03-18. 
  14. ^ [1]

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