Guangdong TV news channel quietly changing from Cantonese to Putonghua

PUBLISHED : Friday, 11 July, 2014, 11:33pm
UPDATED : Friday, 18 July, 2014, 4:46pm

Most original programmes on the news channel of Guangdong TV will be produced and broadcast in Putonghua from September, sources inside the network said, a move that is causing outrage among Cantonese speakers in Guangzhou.

At least four Cantonese anchors had been replaced with Putonghua presenters on GDTV's news channel, the sources said.

The channel has endured lower ratings than its competitors in the city. While preparations are underway for programmes to switch from Cantonese to Putonghua, GDTV's hourly news bulletin has been presented in Putonghua since the end of last month. It was the first Cantonese programme at the channel to be replaced by a Putonghua version.

"This is being done quietly, without any official promotion or notification to audiences," said one source, who declined to be named for fear of retribution.

The broadcasting language in Guangdong has been a sensitive topic since the summer of 2010. That's when thousands of protesters took the streets on July 25 and August 1 to express their vocal support for the local dialect following reports of a plan to change television content to Putonghua from Cantonese for part of each day.

Industry sources outside the network said GDTV decided to switch to Putonghua without consulting the public.

The move has sparked an outcry online, with internet users questioning the motives of GDTV, but no official response has been made.

Zhang Xingdian, executive director of GDTV's news channel, declined to comment when contacted by the South China Morning Post yesterday.

Dr Jack Chan Wing-kit, an associate professor at Sun Yat-sen University's school of government, said the switch in broadcasting language was another symbolic move to marginalise Cantonese.

"This is worse than what happened in 2010 as that involved a proposal that was eventually withdrawn. But today we are talking about an actual implementation without notice," Chan said.

Watch: Keeping Cantonese alive in China's south with soccer and beer