Since the Chinese government initiated its reform policies in the 1980s, the amount and quality of the television services has dramatically increased. The overseeing body, the China Central Television (CCTV) was restructured and now offers a wide variety of programs to Chinese citizens (see the list of CCTV stations further below). Since all media are controlled by the government, it is certain that there is no real editorial freedom and independence for writers and commentators. However, the entertainment value of these programs has been enhanced.
During the past 20 years, the development of a market economy in China has led to more competition across and within networks, both to enhance their reputations and win greater audiences. In the process, Chinese television has gained much more artistic freedom and independence. It is able, to some extent, to pursue its own professional goals and interests while at the same time serving its audience.
Today, China has more televisions than any country in the world. Moreover, China’s television programming has experienced unprecedented expansion. Today, the TV industry has entered a stage of heated competition, as more and more domestic and international media players are entering the Chinese market. As of early 2009, China’s television coverage has reached 96% of the population. This huge TV market is shared by one national and 31 provincial TV stations, as well as a few international media groups.
The entertainment landscape has also changed, resulting in competition for television’s share of viewers. With the latest advances in Smartphones and computers, television faces stiff challenges from the Internet, mobile phone TV, cyber TV, and internet protocol, or IP TV.
China Central Television, or CCTV, is the only national-level TV station in the country, and due to its government ownership, pours forth daily its mainstream ideology and culture.
In 2005, Hunan TV staged a popular reality show, the “Super Voice Girl” singing contest, loosely based on the extremely popular American program, “American Idol”. The success of the contestants depended on marks given by judges, votes from the on-site audience, and mobile phone text messages of support from TV viewers. The program lasted a few months, but the large amount of audience involvement made it the favorite program among the public and advertisers. “Super Voice Girl” proved to be a watershed event: many more reality shows were staged on national and provincial stations.
On the other hand, Chinese TV stations are weak in terms of program originality. This is one area in which domestic TV media still needs to improve. But overall, the performance of the Chinese television industry has improved greatly from the days of the 1970s. There’s a special channel for sports and Chinese viewers can watch sports activities from all over the world almost all the time. ESPN STAR Sports, which encompasses the world’s leading cable and satellite broadcasters of sports events, has cooperated with several Chinese TV stations in various areas.
Shanghai adopted digital television in 2010. The landlord must buy a receptor for any television in the house, in case that the model is not ready to use this technology. Be sure that your house is adapted to this change.
Chinese Central Television, commonly abbreviated as CCTV, is the major state television broadcaster in mainland China. CCTV has a network of 18 channels broadcasting different programs and is accessible to more than one billion viewers. Most of its programs are a mixture of documentary, comedy, entertainment and drama, the majority of which consists of Chinese soap operas and entertainment. The channels in foreign languages (CCTV 9, E and F) are, along with some local channels not belonging to CCTV, the only option for watching television in a language other than Chinese. Shows or films in original version with subtitles are very uncommon in Chinese television.
The CCTV channels are listed in sequential order with no discerning descriptions, e.g. CCTV-1, CCTV-2, etc, similar to those channels in Europe and in other places around the world. Visit http://english.cntv.cn/01/index.shtml for programming details.
- CCTV-1 Public
- CCTV-2 Economics
- CCTV-3 Arts and Entertainment
- CCTV-4 International, in Chinese
- CCTV-5 Sports
- CCTV-6 Films
- CCTV-7 Military/Agriculture/Children
- CCTV-8 TV series
- CCTV-9 International, in English
- CCTV-10 Science and Education
- CCTV-11 Chinese Traditional Opera (Including Peking Opera, Kun Qu, etc)
- CCTV-12 Society and Law
- CCTV-News – 24-hour News
- CCTV-Children – Children’s channel
- CCTV-Music – Classic and Folk Music
- CCTV-E – in Spanish
- CCTV-F – in French
- CCTV-HD – High-definition programming
It is normal in China for TV news programs, such as CNN, to be blacked out during news items that the Chinese government deems offensive or undesirable – this happens each June 3-4 as foreign press report some facet of the June 4, 1989 Tiananmen Square incident. The signals from all news networks allowed in China must first pass through the Chinese-controlled equipment and censors. Therefore, while expats live in China, they will hear nothing on their TVs about the unrest in Tibet, the Chinese milk scandals of last year, or about figures in Chinese history that are not in favor with the government.
The world was told that China would allow the Beijing Olympics to be reported without censorship, but in reality, all TV signals were broadcast with a 10-second delay, in case some camera inadvertently caught a sign protesting Tibet or some other “questionable” activity. Even President Barack Obama’s inauguration speech had this comment deleted: “earlier generations faced down fascism and communism.”
Private homes can get legal access to cable TV. Key channels offered are Star World, CNN, Nickelodeon, BBC, MTV, HBO, ESPN, Cartoon Network and the newly launched ICS (International Channel Shanghai), which broadcasts in English. Mainland China had more than 30 million digital cable television users in 2008.
Unlike many cable television operators in other countries that support two-way modes, China’s cable television runs in a one-way mode (download only, no upload). Signal reception can be temperamental for those not in high-rise buildings. Your landlord should arrange the installation of cable for you as part of your rental agreement and, depending on the package, you should be able to get a full year’s subscription for around 2,000 RMB.