radio (stations and content)


radio (stations and content)
Although in recent years television has become the dominant medium in China, the political and historical significance of radio should not be overlooked. Not only was radio the most direct form of mass communication between the state or Party and the Chinese populace for the first three and a half decades of Communist rule, but in the post-Mao reform era, radio has also been at the forefront of changes to media content and format in the face of rapid commercialization since the early 1980s (see Pearl River Economic Radio).
In 1949 there were forty-nine government-operated radio stations in China, of which seventeen were new. At the same time, the Communist authorities temporarily permitted a further thirty-three privately owned stations to continue to operate. However, by 1953 these were taken over by Party-led people’s broadcasting stations. The dominant national broadcaster was Central People’s Radio (CPR—formerly Yan’an Xinhua Radio) broadcasting fifteen and a half hours daily with 50 per cent news, 25 per cent public education and 25 per cent culture and entertainment. An important feature of radio at this time was that it was received not only through wireless receivers but also through wired radio, which penetrated almost any area of public space, from paddy fields to dormitories, all the time delivering the messages the Party wanted the population to hear. Designated monitors were even assigned in work units throughout the country to muster up audiences and ensure that crucial broadcasts were heard.
In the 1980s, as with television, the restriction that had limited broadcasting to central and provincial levels was removed, opening up the field to city and county levels. By the end of 1992, the number of radio stations in China had grown to 812. At the same time, radio was coming under increasing commercial pressure to be profitable, and the proliferation of stations, many with multiple channels, also introduced competition into the radio industry. Apart from Pearl River Economic Radio (PRER), which fought against Hong Kong broadcasters, other stations throughout the country were looking for ways to engage their audiences more fully.
One such station is Shanghai’s Oriental Radio, affiliated to Shanghai Oriental Television under the auspices of the Shanghai Radio and Television Bureau. Financially independent, the station has been forced to pay its way by attracting, and keeping, audiences. Like PRER, Oriental Radio, launched in 1992, endeavoured to get closer to its audiences with new livelier, friendlier formats, including music, talk shows and phone-ins. It is possible to see these shows as a step towards greater participation in an emerging public sphere. However, they can conversely be seen as a necessary safety valve for releasing people’s tensions and frustrations in a controllable and relatively harmless way. Phone-ins with invited guests, who are likely to be Party officials, can also serve as a useful tool for keeping the Party in touch with the people and their contemporary concerns.
Chang, Won Ho (1989). Mass Media in China: the History and the Future. Ames: Iowa State University Press.
Hamm, Charles (1991). ‘Music and Radio in the People’s Republic of China’. Asian Music 22.2 (Spring/Summer): 1–41.
Zhao, Yuezhi (1998). Media, Market, and Democracy in China: Between the Party Line and the Bottom Line. Chicago: University of Illinois.
KEVIN LATHAM

Encyclopedia of contemporary Chinese culture. . 2011.

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