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Watchdog, Lapdog or Guard dog?

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Shelley Fung

on 7 October 2013

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Transcript of Watchdog, Lapdog or Guard dog?

Watchdog, Lapdog or Guard dog?
Negotiation between
Chinese Media & State Regulators
2008 Sichuan Earthquake
deadly earthquake measured at 8.0 Ms
occurred on May 12, 2008, 2:28PM
killed almost 70000 , over 10000 missing
Approximately 15 million people lived in the affected area.
The deadliest earthquake to hit China since the 1976 Tangshan earthquake.
Once the disaster occurred on May 12 at 2:28PM...
reacted the fastest to report the news before getting approval from the Central Government
the News Channel started the special program “exclusive Report on Wenchuan”at 3:00PM
Party Media
Commercial Media
May 13
May 13
May 12 2:50PM
Xinhua News Agency
released a dispatch called, “Quake Causes the Death of Around 400 Students at a Middle School in Sichuan’s Qingchuan County in Guangyuan Prefecture”
Southern Metropolis Daily
gave prominent place to a photo essay dispatched by their reporter on the scene in Dujiangyan. It was called “Masses of Students are Buried at Dujiangyan.”
Central Propaganda Department
May 12, a few hours after earthquake
ordered China news organizations NOT to send reporters to the scene
they should only use information released by CCTV or Xinhua News Agency
Central Propaganda Department
May 15
ordered that “no specific examples of rescue efforts at schools be raised in reports on the Wenchuan earthquake rescue.”
May 18
school collapses all over the disaster zone had been reported by Chinese media
most of these schools had collapsed due to structural weaknesses and had been laid flat within moments.
Party Media
People’s Daily Online, Xinhua Online and Sichuan Television paid attention to the problem of school collapses in earlier reports
May 16: People’s Daily Online arranged an online chat between Web users and officials and scholars
Commercial Media
paid attention to the issue as well, with more in-depth reports and investigations
May 19-21 (national period of mourning)
Southern Metropolis Daily: ran a series of 3-day reports called “Xue Shang” (“The Premature Death of Our Students”).
Early stage: When 1st bans imposed
Second Stage: Tightening of Controls
media still seized the opportunity, and an even more powerful third wave of reporting on the issue
--> criticized by authorities
Commercial Media
May 29
Southern Weekend: ran a whole series of reports
June 1 International Children’s Day
honor students who had died
June 6
the weekly newsmagazine Outlook: ran a report called, “An Investigation Into School Collapses in the Quake Zone: Why Did Old Residential Structures Stand?

June 9
Caijing magazine: “School Buildings, A Chronicle of Concern.”

Circuitous reporting tactics to circumvent propaganda bans
May 24: Xinhua News Agency reporter Zhu Yu
“The Disaster Prevention Strategy of a Rural Schoolmaster in the Quake Zone.”
underscore broader failures of government preparedness by glorifying a local school official in Sichuan who had for many years worked privately to reinforce his own classrooms.
Third Stage: Comprehensive Bans
Central Propaganda Department
the Central Propaganda Department and local propaganda offices issued comprehensive bans on further coverage of the issue of school collapses
a clear downward trend in the number of reports from late May onward.
As the one-month anniversary of the earthquake approached, reports on shoddy school construction were virtually nonexistent.
Media such as Southern Metropolis Daily and Southern Weekend that had reported on the problem of school collapses were severely criticized and eventually subjected to purges of editorial staff.
next major report skirting the edge: Feb 6, 2009
Both party and commercial media negotiated with state regulators to report and investigate the earthquake issue until the government tightened the bans by punishment
Does this imply a sign of a new age of government transparency & media accountability?
more openness and freedom are given
the government promise the world to be more open
media policy swing between control and openness
acquiesce the media to report timely--> first time report the news without getting the approval from the Central Government
Our Stance
due to its limitations and censorship imposed by the Central Propaganda Department and local propaganda offices, further increase in government transparency and media accountability is unlikely in near future

When the issue is regarded as “harmful to the national interest” or “damaging to social stability” by the government
--> it would be banned
--> such bans lead to the lack of in-depth and investigative reports, especially in party-owned media
reports on school collapses were suppressed
--> exposed the corrupt and negligent behavior of officials
-->Many officials who previously served in areas impacted by the quake had now moved on to higher positions in the official hierarchy.
For government transparency :
For media accountability:
-->Chinese media become more market driven
-->tend to cater the audience instead of the central government
Shelley Fung
Alice Hung
Reference list :
A chronology of media earthquake coverage translated by Roland Song,
Looking at Chinese media reporting of School collapses
Control, resistance and negotiation: how the Chinese media carve out greater
space for autonomy
2008 Sichuan earthquake
china earthquake map
CCTV news
It is a sign of new age of government transparency & media accountability
shifted role of Chinese media
-->no longer only the mouth-piece of the government

media credibility construction
Watchdog role of press-->China Media Project "Control 2.0"
--> exposed the truth of school collapse
Full transcript