Two Billion Eyes: The Story of Chinese Central Television

Ying Zhu, Author
Ying Zhu. New Press (Perseus, dist.), $27.95 (304p) ISBN 978-1-59558-464-9
Reviewed on: 08/06/2012
Release date: 10/01/2012
Paperback - 291 pages - 978-1-59558-979-8
Open Ebook - 305 pages - 978-1-59558-802-9
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Though it has become one of the most watched news networks in the world, China Central Television has largely escaped the notice of media commentators in the West. Chinese media specialist Ying offers the first book-length treatment of the subject in English, revealing an organization that, far from being just a dreary organ of propaganda, is vibrant and innovative, as well as internally divided and conflicted by the pressures of practicing journalism under authoritarianism. Utilizing far-ranging, candid interviews with many of the network’s leaders, staffers, and anchors, Ying shows how despite CCTV’s monopoly status, it is increasingly shaped by market forces. CCTV employees must balance their mission to deliver reliable and accurate coverage, their status as “mouthpiece of the state,” and their mandate to generate ad revenue. Yang Rui, the ultranationalist talk show host and star of CCTV’s English-language station, provides an object lesson in the business’s inherent tensions—both defending official censorship as serving the national interest and criticizing CCTV’s younger generation of employees as strivers unconcerned with journalistic ethics. Those unfamiliar with Chinese television may find the lengthy profiles of media personalities and programming snapshots to be tiresome, but Ying’s cogent analysis and penetrating insight are invaluable for anyone trying to understand the political and social reality of the world’s most populous country. (Nov.)
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