Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation and AOL Time Warner are close to securing the rights to broadcast to domestic television viewers in Guangdong, after years of wooing Beijing to gain access to mainland audiences. Analysts said Beijing's push for acceptance into the World Trade Organisation by the end of the year might have speeded the relaxation of its control over the distribution of media content. As part of News Corp and AOL Time Warner's separate deals, they will be required to broadcast in the US a channel of China Central Television (CCTV), China's state-run flagship network. Neither broadcaster said whether their Guangdong channels would produce news programmes. A spokesman for Star Group, the Asian operating arm of Australia-based News Corp, said that because negotiations were continuing, he could not comment on whether news would be carried on Star's as-yet-unnamed Putonghua channel. AOL Time Warner's deal involves expanding the distribution of the existing China Entertainment Television (CETV) channel, in which it has a stake. The 24-hour Putonghua channel, operated out of Hong Kong and available in some mainland hotels and foreign compounds, does not currently carry news. It broadcasts general entertainment, including music and travel shows. Star Group said in a statement that it was in 'advanced discussions' with China's broadcasting industry watchdog - the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television - and China International Television on the rights to broadcast a channel in Guangdong. 'China's increasing openness augurs well for the whole broadcasting industry,' said Star Group chairman James Murdoch, son of Rupert. 'We are hopeful that we can reach a positive conclusion soon and launch a new service that complements our already substantial operations in China,' he said. A spokesman at US-based AOL Time Warner said the company had held 'positive and constructive' talks with the Chinese Government on broadening distribution of CETV. AOL Time Warner bought a stake of undisclosed size in CETV in June last year. Phoenix Satellite Television, of which Star owns 38.5 per cent, and CETV both have the right to beam signals over China via satellites. Officially, the broadcasts are only available to hotels of three stars or above, and foreigners' residences. However, many mainlanders, particularly in Guangdong, have been watching CETV and Phoenix illegally by erecting unauthorised satellite dishes. TVB and ATV are also being illegally delivered to some mainland viewers by cable operators. The move to allow foreign broadcasters access to domestic viewers opens the door to massive potential markets and advertising revenues. Market researcher AC Nielsen Media estimated the mainland's television advertising expenditure for the first half of this year to be 32.7 billion yuan (HK$30 billion). Benson Chao, Star Group's assistant manager of corporate affairs and publicity, said the company planned to start a channel mainly featuring music, drama and comedy - a 'substantial' portion of which would be specifically produced for the mainland. Star produces more than 10,000 hours of programmes a year for the China market, mainly in Hong Kong. Mr Chao said the new channel would primarily target audiences in the Pearl River Delta. He conceded that because Star did not operate a cable television network in the US, there would be a challenge in fulfilling the requirement to broadcast CCTV in the US. Star is in talks to buy into American cable TV operator DirectTV. Goldman Sachs media analyst James Mitchell said he believed the relaxation of access to Guangdong audiences would eventually be extended to other provinces, although it could take a long time. 'I think [Guangdong] will be a test-bed for a while.' He said he doubted whether news content would feature on the foreign broadcasters' channels because of political sensitivity. The development comes ahead of US President George W. Bush's visit to China next month.