Press and publications sector in line for reform
Vivien Pik-Kwan Chan
Beijing will introduce measures this year to reform the state-dominated press and publications sector in an attempt to rejuvenate the industry, official sources said.
However, tight government controls over media content would not be relaxed, they said.
Under the proposed reforms, newspapers would be required to submit their sales figures to an independent body for verification.
Senior officials from the State Press and Publication Administration said they would approve the establishment of joint-venture circulation audit firms between foreign and mainland companies.
An administration official said many mainland publications exaggerated their circulation figures to boost advertising revenue.
The current system of ranking newspapers would be abolished, they said. At present, papers are classified into different rankings, with party-level papers at the top, followed by provincial and then city-level titles.
Sources said the ranking system had restricted newspapers as they were required to focus on specific areas. The reforms would give publications far greater flexibility, they said.
In addition, newspapers would be allowed to increase their number of pages without prior approval from supervising units. Papers currently have to seek permission to print extra pages if they have sold more advertisements.
Periodicals that are now published two or three times a week would also be allowed to print extra issues if desired.
But officials involved in the reforms said the media would still be required to strictly adhere to the party line. All newspapers on the mainland are state run.
'They are still strictly monitored by their supervising units,' the official said. 'They are required to abide by coverage guidelines, and are still obliged to publish major articles and commentaries released by the official Xinhua agency.'
Before June, all major newspapers and publications will be required to examine their internal structure and propose possible reforms to better utilise staff and resources.
Over-staffed and loss-making firms will be required to reduce staff or merge with more efficient groups.
Individual bookstores will also be grouped into chain-stores to strengthen their competitiveness.
The major bookstore chains, such as the Xinhua stores, will be listed.
Although some major newspaper groups have lobbied intensely to be listed, officials said they were not planning to permit such a move.
'Unlike bookstores which are regarded as corporate units, newspaper groups are regarded as institutions, and are therefore not allowed to be listed at this stage,' the official said.