Beijing plans to set up several large multimedia groups to counter the possible influx of foreign investment in the sector after its WTO entry, a senior official said yesterday. State Press and Publications Administration director Yu Youxian said yesterday the department was identifying viable press and printing groups in a bid to turn them into multimedia groups. The administration would encourage the groups to venture into different media and provinces. They probably would need mergers and restructuring to enable them to do this, he said, adding they would be allowed more financing alternatives to support their expansion. The administration was mapping out the details of strategy. Mr Yu said the existing media companies could not cope with the new challenges posed by the rapid development of the Internet and increasing investment from the private sector. Although the Government still retained a strong grip on investment in the media and approvals were hard to obtain, it was an irreversible trend that the private sector would play an important role in the media, he said. By the end of 1998, there were more than 11,000 publishing companies, 185,000 printing companies and more than 60 compact disc producers on the mainland. But few of them would be competitive enough in the new market environment, Mr Yu said. The mainland has been grouping newspapers and publications into large media groups since 1996. So far there are nine press groups, including the Shenzhen Special Zone Daily Group, the Beijing Daily Group and the Guangzhou Daily Group. Beijing also has started putting all newspapers under the leadership of party-controlled papers and such changes in control would continue. Government departments also have stopped running their own newspapers, apart from internal newsletters.