BBC expects less censorship

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 24 November, 2001, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 24 November, 2001, 12:00am


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The BBC expects a loosening of online censorship in China after the mainland's entry to the World Trade Organisation.

'We have a particular problem with the Chinese Web site, along with the rest of the BBC Web sites, in that it is filtered by the authorities inside China so at this time it is not viewable at all inside mainland China,' said Chris Westcott, head of new media at BBC World Service.

'You can see it in Hong Kong, you can see it in the rest of the world, but the Chinese authorities, as I said, filter the BBC Web site along with a number of news Web sites of media organisations around the world.

'We do not truly understand how they scrutinise the content on the sites. But all we know is all of the BBC's Web sites are blocked, including material which is not of a news nature,' he said at the Innovation Expo in the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre.

Mr Westcott said even educational content was blocked. One of the more popular features on BBCChinese helped people to improve their English but could not be viewed on the mainland. - re-launched at the Innovation Expo - runs localised Chinese-language content from its regional and international sites.

In addition to providing information and education, it has interactive forums for expressing opinion. News stories are supplied by its journalists worldwide, and updated and supported by its technical team in London.

Mr Westcott said the corporation had been involved in a continuing dialogue with the Chinese authorities on their attitudes to the BBC sites and the Internet in general.

He said he hoped news sites would be free from censorship with China joining the WTO.

'I think there is a growing understanding - for example, with the Chinese membership of the WTO - there would be changes underlying the economic principles inside China. There is a wider interest in many other aspects of content [which] organisations such as BBC has - for example, its English-learning materials.

'We are looking forward to some kind of understanding that the BBC has editorial integrity - there is a quality there, and there is consistency to it, so everybody can access it.'

Visitors - primarily mainland tourists and students - at the Innovation Expo visited the BBC booth to take part in Vox Pop video interviews, which were then Webcast over the BBC Web site.

A visitor from Guangzhou was impressed after viewing the site. 'It is very good,' he said.

'I found it exciting to see the video broadcast over the Internet in 60 seconds. It would be good if such forums can be viewed in the mainland also.'