1st Edition

Seeking Truth in International TV News China, CGTN and the BBC

By Vivien Marsh Copyright 2023
    232 Pages 29 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This book puts CGTN (formerly CCTV-News) and the BBC’s international television news head-to-head, interrogating competing ‘truths’ in the exacting business of news reporting.

    Written by a media scholar and former long-serving BBC News journalist, Seeking Truth in International TV News asks if China’s English-language television news programmes are little more than state propaganda, and if the BBC can be viewed as a universal news standard to which all other broadcasters should aspire. Over 8 years of Xi Jinping’s rule, it investigates how the international TV news channels of CGTN and the BBC reported on Chinese politics, protests in Hong Kong, disasters, China in Africa, and insurgency and its suppression in Xinjiang. The comparison reveals uneven editorial imperatives at the Chinese broadcaster and raises questions about the BBC’s professed tenets of balance and impartiality. It also illustrates how Chinese journalists commit ‘small acts of journalism’ that push the boundaries of information control.

    A rigorous analysis of reportage from the two channels, this book will be relevant to scholars of global media, journalism, international relations and public diplomacy. It will also interest those in academia, the media and international affairs who want to examine the nature of news and ‘soft power’ in a comparative context.

    List of Figures
    List of Tables
    List of Abbreviations

    1. A Battle for Global Influence

    Everything Comes from Somewhere
    Going Global
    Contested Concepts: Soft Power
    Contested Concepts: Impartiality and Balance
    Contested Concepts: Propaganda
    The Power of the Individual
    The Ritual of International News
    Chapter Overviews

    2. Seeking ‘Truth’ from Facts

    A Tale of Two News Channels
    CCTV in English 1986-2010
    CCTV-News 2010-2016
    CGTN in English 2017–
    BBC World Service Television News 1991-1995
    BBC World and BBC World News 1995–
    Into Africa, the Americas and Europe
    Fractured Worlds
    Comparing the News
    Categorising the Reporting
    Precisions and Limitations

    3. Telling China’s Story Well

    Getting the Story Straight
    Two Caged Tigers: The Bo and Zhou Trials
    China and its Place in the World
    Lunar New Year
    The ‘Two Sessions’ Political Meetings
    Covering (the Rest of) China 
    Whose China Story?

    4. Responding to Disaster

    The Bearers of Bad News
    The 2015 Yangtze Capsize
    The 2019 Jiangsu Explosion
    Yangtze to Jiangsu: What Changed?

    5. Covering Political Unrest

    One Region, Two Narratives
    The 2014 Hong Kong ‘Umbrella’ Protests
    The 2019 Hong Kong Extradition Bill Crisis
    CGTN’s New Voice
    Media Wars
    ‘Small Acts of Journalism’?
    Strengthening Frames

    6. Redefining African News
    China’s News for Africa: Experiment or Expedient?
    Changing Africa’s Media Image
    Comparisons in Figures
    Comparisons in Framing
    China in Africa
    Which Journalism, and for Whom?
    The African Exception

    7. Islam, ‘Terror’ and National Identity
    Enemies Without and Within
    Two Stories of Xinjiang, 2018-2021
    Seeking Facts: The 2014 Attacks
    Defining Terrorism
    2015: The Case of Charlie Hebdo
    Manufacturing Context

    8. A Trojan Dragon and its Achilles Heel
    The Battle for Discourse Power
    Seeking Answers: News Content
    Seeking Answers: Power and Partiality
    Sharp Power, Blunt Weapon
    The Achilles Heel
    The Imperilled Centenarian
    The Casualty of Truths
    Never Again ‘News From Nowhere’



    Vivien Marsh, an independent academic researcher and journalist who teaches at the University of Westminster, UK, is a former BBC global news editor, reporter and writer.