'Big 9' Web sites given status plug
A massive publicity campaign has been launched to boost the status of nine official Web sites designated as flagships of online news.
A circular issued by the Communist Party's Publicity Department said major news organisations had been banned from carrying positive editorial reports - which are often sold as advertising products - about Web sites not among the nine, Beijing sources said.
The sources said the authorities had made it clear that they did not want other Web sites to steal the spotlight from the chosen nine, which would be the sole beneficiaries of media publicity.
An industrial source said many mainland TV channels had refused to carry interviews on Web founders or company profiles of commercial Web sites after the circular was issued, although paid adverts were still allowed.
'The authorities are less strict with the print media. But it is quite difficult for Web companies to have publicity on the television now,' the source said.
A Beijing source said the move aimed to allow 'trustworthy' government networks to dominate, if not monopolise, online news.
'The motive is obvious. From now on, the Government will have tighter control over online news,' the source said.
The nine major networks comprise Web sites operated by five national news organisations: People's Daily, Xinhua, China Daily, China Radio International, and China Internet Information Centre.
An IT news Web site and three regional news networks set up by media organisations in Beijing, Guangdong and Shanghai respectively are also on the list.
The official People's Daily yesterday started a series of special reports about the mainland's prominent Web sites. Propaganda to support the 'Big Nine' has also started to appear in papers such as the Beijing Youth Daily.
Web operators said commercial Web sites originally focused on news, such as sohu.com and sina.com, had moved to diversify their content to weather the competition posed by the nine official web sites.