China took a big step in pursuit of its ambitions to become a global media power with the launch of its new Nairobi-based African CCTV African service on January 13. Beijing is reportedly committing upwards of a billion dollars towards in global satellite television projects in a bid to join the “top three” (Al Jazeera, CNN and BBC).
If the current CCTV programming is any indication of what’s to come on their African channel(s), viewers across the continent may be disappointed in what they find. Chinese media executives focus so much of their attention on distribution channels rather instead of creating more compelling content that truly can compete with the countless local stations available across the continent, much less the big international players. CCTV’s drama programs are largely ill-suited for international audiences and the news remains shockingly bland in the context of more dynamic competitors in the US, Europe and the Gulf.
In short, CCTV News in Africa is an excellent first step but it is by no means enough. Beijing must overcome its fear of producing provocative content otherwise failure will be inevitable.
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