satellite television


satellite television
Satellite television has played a crucial role in the development of Chinese television since the mid 1990s. The significance of satellite television has to be seen against the backdrop of a commercializing television industry and a fragmenting audience. Even though direct-to-home reception is still banned and satellite channels are only legally received through cable television relays, they are watched daily by hundreds of millions of viewers throughout the country. The development of satellite television has therefore been closely linked to the development of cable television. In 2001 there were thirty-one provincial satellite television stations and twenty-seven of these were set up after 1995.
Through setting up satellite television stations, local or regional level television operators have been able to compete at a national level in a way that, prior to cable television, they could never have done. Before the multiple channels that came with cable provision, the only nationally received television station was CCTV (Chinese Central Television), which competed locally with county-, city- or provincial-level stations. Satellite television, in conjunction with cable networks, changed this as local television channels from other regions suddenly became available to viewers for the first time. China’s television market was truly opened up to nationwide competition. The arrival of new channels from other parts of China also served to highlight regional differences and identities to increasingly fragmented television audiences while also deflecting their attention away from the national broadcaster.
Although CCTV generally remains the dominant television station, its audience share has been markedly reduced with the proliferation of satellite channels.
Satellite television therefore played a crucial role in the development of the television industry by enhancing competition at all levels and opening up new sources of funding. The expansion of the real and potential audience (which in some cases is more than 90 per cent of the population) has enabled stations to raise their advertising revenues and increase investment in both infrastructure and programme production. In the case of Hunan’s provincial television station, one of the best-known satellite television stations in China, it also made possible a lucrative initial public offering on the Shanghai stock exchange, as Hunan Broadcast and Television Media Group, at the end of 1998.
Foreign satellite channels remain heavily restricted in China. In early 2002, there were twenty-one approved channels including many recognized names such as CNN, HBO, CNBC, BBC World, MTV, National Geographic, Star Movies and the Discovery Channel. However, the channels were legally received only in three-star hotels. The exception has been Phoenix Satellite Television, the Mandarin-language entertainment channel partly owned by Rupert Murdoch’s Hong Kong-based Star TV, which has been transmitted through various cable networks, to varying degrees, since the mid 1990s. Offering a light entertainment diet centred around drama series, the channel has achieved great popularity in many areas where it is available. In late 2001, the Chinese authorities approved two foreign satellite channels for direct transmission into Chinese homes in Guangdong. These were AOL Time Warner’s China Entertainment Television (CETV), a repackaged version of an old unsuccessful Hong Kong-based no-news Mandarin satellite channel, and News Corporation’s Xingkong [Star Sky] Satellite, a newly launched Mandarin entertainment channel from the Star TV Group.
KEVIN LATHAM

Encyclopedia of contemporary Chinese culture. . 2011.

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