China mulls reforms to tighten grip on media, web

China`s top leaders are considering "cultural reforms", which would be aimed at tightening control over the media and internet.

Beijing: China`s top leaders are considering
"cultural reforms", state media reported, which analysts said
would be aimed at tightening control over the media and
Internet to shape public opinion.

A meeting chaired by President Hu Jintao yesterday called
for the "mastering of new trends in cultural development" and
for an emphasis on "Chinese characteristics" as part of the
proposed overhaul, Xinhua news agency said.

Details of the draft changes to be considered by
Communist Party leaders next month were not given, but
analysts said they were likely to tighten Beijing`s grip on
newspapers, television and popular social networking sites.

"All cultural controls have the essential political
mission to shape the people`s mind to not directly challenge
the party rule, to accept the status quo," a media expert at
the University of California, Berkeley said.
"It highlights their nervousness and their awareness of
the increasing challenges to their ability to control the
cultural sphere", Xiao Qiang added.

For the past decade Beijing has been encouraging
state-run media to be more competitive and less reliant on
state subsidies, which has led to more critical reporting and
racier programming as outlets compete for readers and viewers.

But the trend towards more free-wheeling reporting has
undermined official efforts to control public opinion, and
unnerved authorities who have seen previously obedient media
outlets criticise their decisions and defy orders to toe the
Communist Party line.
The huge and rising popularity of weibos -- microblogs
similar to Twitter that have taken China by storm since they
first launched two years ago -- has also posed major
challenges to censors and fuelled official concerns.

There is "this anxiety over the influence of these truly
commercially operating media which have gained a lot of
strength in the past decade and have huge audiences," said
David Bandurski of the China Media Project at the University
of Hong Kong.

"You really have seen the progressive loss of control by
the official media and in recent years they have been trying
to re-grab that agenda."

A train crash that killed 40 people in July sparked an
outpouring of public fury on the weibos -- apparently catching
officials by surprise.

Weeks later Beijing`s most senior Communist Party
official visited the offices of Chinese Internet giant Sina,
which operates a popular weibo, and Youku, a Chinese site
similar to YouTube, to urge them to stop the spread of "false
and harmful information".

Bureau Report

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