China Central Television (CCTV) plans to launch an English and Swahili service for Africa, competing with CNC TV, a worldwide network launched by the Xinhua news agency (which does not have a domestic television channel in China).
According to a source quoted by a Kenyan news portal, Jackal News, “CNC TV became the most watched TV station in the Asia continent mostly [for] the Africa stories.” A source that spouts such nonsense is hardly worth much (it is in fact impossible to ascertain from CNC’s website when they have launched their services and where they are available), but Jackal News confidently asserts that “CNC TV is planning to start poaching employees from both local and international stations.”
A South African news site, meanwhile, reported that CCTV “has launched the biggest raid on personnel across Kenyan TV newsrooms … as the station prepares for its launch in December. “Top editors of what will be the Kenyan office and continental satellite studio for the Chinese have already been trained in Beijing and are preparing for what is being described as a ‘transformation of international TV experience.'”
Al-Jazeera is also launching a Swahili service and “poaching” journalists from Kenyan stations.
Semi-official Chinese commentators have long been saying that Western influence on media in Africa (and more recently Burma) is a key obstacle to a better image of China. The expansion of Chinese media overseas has been set by the government as a goal to serve the growth of China’s “soft power.” Li Qiangmin, the current Chinese envoy to the Southeast African Common Market and a senior diplomat, recently said in an interview that Africa’s “misunderstanding” of China is largely because of the “demonisation” in Western media and the absence of Chinese media from the continent. Since the failure of the Southern Media Group, which has a liberal reputation and has recently been attacked by nationalists in China, to buy Newsweek in 2010, however, this expansion has mostly been proceeding in Chinese-language media.
According to a Tanzanian news site, the Chinese government has also “expressed interest to establish an FM radio that will use Chinese and Kiswahili languages as a symbol of friendship with Tanzania.” Li Wei, the Vice-Minister of the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (SARFT), who made this announcement, said that “the first step we took is to translate a Chinese play into Kiswahili which is called Doudou.”