The studio of CCTV’s flagship news programme has been given an “international” facelift by a famous US set designer to propel it into the ranks of broadcasters such as the BBC.
After a global search, multiple Emmy-winner Jim Fenhagen was brought in to redesign the set of Xinwen Lianbo, which broadcasts daily from the iconic CCTV building in Beijing and has more than 100 million viewers. He designed the sets of Good Morning America, The Colbert Report and The Daily Show which broadcast in the US and was tasked with bringing the state broadcaster up to their level.
“They wanted to be on a par with the BBC, CNN, and Sky News – to be cutting-edge and to be an equal,” Fenhagen told Fast Company magazine. “Money wasn’t the defining issue. They wanted the most contemporary tools and an ‘international style’, not a Chinese look.”
He added: “We offered them designs referencing Chinese culture, but they were rejected.”
The set uses the most cutting edge LED technology – high-resolution screens with 2.5mm pixels LEDs. Before, the highest resolution screens had 4mm pixels.
“Screens with 2.5 mm pixels are unbelievably crisp and very, very expensive,” Fenhagen said.
A glass wall allows viewers to see straight into the newsroom where 70 journalists work.
Fenhagen said modern design incorporated many right angles, but his Chinese client preferred circles, which he put down to their “symbolic meaning of prosperity, the ongoing cycle of life, yin and yang”.
His company, Jack Morton Worldwide, which has an office in Beijing, was first commissioned to design a bureau in Nairobi, Kenya, as a test.
Fenhagen said more complicated parts of the set were built in New Jersey and shipped to China as local expertise was not available. He also had to negotiate the building’s fire code, which shuts down electricity at night, as LEDs are never turned off.
But some Weibo users were sceptical of the style revamp to the programme. “The new design will beat US broadcasters, but the news content it broadcasts will only outrun North Korea’s,” Xu Xunlei wrote.
Viewers can see the new set later this spring.