Head of CCTV to step down after blaze | South China Morning Post
  • Fri
  • Mar 6, 2015
  • Updated: 9:02pm

Head of CCTV to step down after blaze

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 16 May, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 16 May, 2009, 12:00am

The president of China Central Television, Zhao Huayong, is to step down three months after a massive fire gutted a hotel building at the national broadcaster's new complex in downtown Beijing.

Mr Zhao's departure comes amid growing calls for the central government to widen the investigation into the blaze.

Mr Zhao, 61, will be succeeded by Jiao Li, deputy head of the publicity department of the Communist Party's Central Committee, sources close to the matter said.

A source at CCTV said the management would call an emergency meeting today to announce Mr Zhao's resignation.

The fire, on the night of the Lantern Festival on February 9, killed one firefighter and gutted the 30-storey building with losses estimated at several-hundred-million yuan.

While many expressed dismay at the death of the firefighter, few had any sympathy with CCTV and its management. The fire was made the butt of online jokes, with millions of bloggers and netizens using it to vent their frustration over the mainland's propaganda policy and the arrogance of the state broadcaster.

The initial investigation found CCTV had hired staff from a fireworks company to light several-hundred large festive fireworks in an open space outside the nearly completed building, which was to house the 241-room Mandarin Oriental hotel.

Investigators said the fireworks were much more powerful than those available at roadside stalls during Lunar New Year and needed approval from the municipal government before being set off in downtown areas. Police tried to intervene when the fireworks were set off, but CCTV ignored their warnings.

CCTV has apologised for the fire, but it insisted that it was the CCTV construction office, a powerful department within the broadcaster's hierarchy, and not CCTV management that had flouted rules.

Police arrested 12 people including a senior CCTV official, Xu Wei, who was in charge of the 5 billion yuan (HK$5.69 billion) construction project. Mainland prosecutors were reported to have launched an investigation into the blaze over possible dereliction of duty.

While Mr Xu is certain to face criminal charges, some accused CCTV and the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television, the broadcasting industry watchdog, of using Mr Xu as a scapegoat to cover up rampant irregularities at CCTV.

In an open letter posted online on Wednesday to Liu Yunshan, head of the Communist Party's powerful publicity department, outspoken Peking University economics professor Xia Yeliang pressured Mr Liu to at least apologise for the fire. 'It has been 104 days since the CCTV building fire, when can the world know the verdict about the blaze?' Professor Xia asked.

The CCTV source said Mr Zhao planned to retire more than a year ago and Li Ting, a deputy CCTV department head in charge of overall programming, had been tipped to succeed him.

The appointment of Mr Jiao is seen as a dressing down to the incumbent CCTV leadership. Little is known about Mr Jiao, but he was recently seen in public when he was sent to Sichuan in January to drum up support for reconstruction efforts in quake-stricken areas.

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