Hopes high for a wealthier, greener and fairer world - Media

PUBLISHED : Friday, 01 January, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 01 January, 2010, 12:00am

No other event defined the mainland's press better last year than the paralysis at Caijing Magazine. At the same time the magazine was hosting its annual conference - on December 18 - Hu Shuli , the editor responsible for making the publication one of the best on the mainland, was beginning her first day as dean of Sun Yat-sen University's school of communication and design.

Hu's high-profile departure from the magazine, along with most of its key staff - a result of differences with the publisher over the direction of the magazine in the internet age - capped a rough year for the mainland media, torn between an unprecedented privatisation drive and heightened state control.

The General Administration of Press and Publication issued a guideline document in April calling for publications to be more profitable. At the same time, the authorities said they would continue to keep a tight grip on mouthpiece outlets such as People's Daily. Shanghai Media Group, the mainland's second-largest media conglomerate, announced in October it would separate its news operations from its other media programming and business units, a move aimed at making its operations more market-oriented.

Such a push is profound, says Renmin University media professor Yu Guoming . Reforming the industry could lay a solid foundation for the construction of a whole new set of rules for the game. It also means a good opportunity for private investors, who have already taken up roles in the business by taking advantage of regulatory loopholes.

When Hu's team expressed interest in launching a new multi-media platform, including a business weekly, investors were reportedly lining up in her office. 'But the more the opportunities and the higher the returns, the greater the risks could be,' says Yu, with one case in point being the closure of hundreds of mostly commercial web portals by the authorities in the name of a clampdown on pirated and vulgar content. Yu says research shows social tensions have been on the rise on the mainland in recent years and the internet serves as 'a safety valve' for the public to vent their grievances. 'If all such vents are to be clogged, it would be extremely risky from a political point of view; though such measures could guarantee a short-lived stability,' he says.