Making news in the People's Republic of China: the case of CCTV-9



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This dissertation explores the news making process at CCTV-9, the Beijing-based global English language service of China Central Television (CCTV). My interest in this topic was triggered by the strange manner in which so much debate about media reform in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) elides any real discussion of the contribution of journalists themselves to reform, which is almost invariably treated as something that happens to media from outside of, or regardless of, what journalists do. My aim in this research was to address this lapsus and foreground the work of journalists to show how it contributes to the changing institutional framework in which their work is embedded and therefore contributes to media reform. Drawing on ground-breaking work on bounded innovation and resistance by Pan Zhongdang and Lu Ye in this emerging field, I utilize concepts derived from their use of Michel de Certeau and discuss these concepts in light of the works of Antonio Gramsci, Pierre Bourdieu and Michel Foucault to show how journalists at CCTV-9 exercised control over their work, despite their function as mouthpieces of the news and publicity system operated by the Communist Party of China and PRC government. I am not suggesting that PRC journalists are dissidents. However, my research did suggest that the mundane practice of journalism, even in so constrained a media environment as that of the PRC news system, can alter the manner in which news is made and thereby contribute to media reform. Utilizing participant observation of the CCTV-9 newsroom in 2004-2005, interviews with a range of news makers, in-house documents and a survey of content, I construct a picture of news making at CCTV-9 that foregrounds what to more macro-oriented analyses of media reform in the PRC has remained inaccessible, the minutiae of everyday life in the newsroom, and the tiny, but not inconsequential changes brought about by the ordinary work of journalists.