CHIMWEMWE MWALE, Beijing
CHINA’S rapid media development arguably depicts the country’s drive to move with time from its ancient civilisation, which traces as far back as 5,000 years ago when it was one of the four ancient states in the world.
The Chinese ancestors lived and laboured in the vast land as early as one million years ago, creating what conspicuously stands out as rich cultural material and spiritual civilisation.
Given this background, China has over time advanced to a modern contemporary society complete with modern media trends among other dynamics but with Chinese characteristics from its history.
This is one of the highlights at the ongoing 2018 Seminar on Media Think Tank for Zambia, which has drawn 22 media personnel from different institutions Zambia.
The seminar is under the auspices of the Research and Training Institute State administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television (SAPPRFT) of China.
SAPPRFT is a non-profit institution and the largest training organisation in the press, publication, radio, film and television industry of China.
The institute carries out media training programmes it sponsors in collaboration with China’s ministries of Commerce, Foreign Affairs and the International Department of the China People’s Congress (CPC).
Others are the international organisations for domestic and overseas media practitioners, technicians and senior managers.
Like other media academies around the world, the institute organises experienced professionals to exchange their experience with local radio, television and print media practitioners.
These are at hand to give featured lectures or seminars on media management, financing, brand construction and promotion, digitilisation, among other media-related topics.
Another field of practice for the centre is to host governmental projects concerning radio and television broadcasting industry for other developing countries.
According to SAPPRFT, until 2017, there were more than 3,400 officials and managers from 146 countries of five continents who participated in different kinds of seminars in an effort to meet the challenges posed by new technology and economic development.
The 2018 seminar includes different topics related to radio and television fields such as China’s national condition, RTV development and strategy, new media development, operation idea and innovation of broadcasting organisations and foreign partners.
Senior officials from State Council Information Office and State Administration of Radio, Film and Television of China have been at hand to give presentations while field visits of government organs, enterprises, city developments, including a visit to Chongqing city, were organised to make participants appreciate and grasp a better understanding of modern China.
From the study tours and lessons drawn so far, it is evident that China’s media landscape is robust and here is why.
The Constitution of the People’s Republic of China guarantees citizens’ freedom of speech and information.
With the economic development that started in the 1980s, Chinese media have become more diversified as they extend their reach throughout the orient country, whose population is around 1.3 billion people, through multiple transmissions, including satellites, wireless and wired systems.
According to China Development Research Center for National Radio and Television Administration deputy director general Cui Chenghao, China has 2,656 radio and television stations combined and 3,041 sets of national broadcasting frequency with 1,597 sets of television channels.
In sharp comparison and contrast, Zambia, whose population is around 15 million people, has 115 radio stations and 45 licensed television stations.
Mr Cui said China produces 314 television series with 13,470 episodes with television drama ratings proportion of about 40 percent.
China’s television industry has grown into a complete system with high-tech programme production, transmission and coverage.
China Central Television (CCTV), which is China’s largest and most powerful national television station, has established business relations with more than 250 television organisations in over 130 countries and regions.
The television station has made progress in the direction of specialisation and introduced specialised channels which include news, children’s and music channels.
Mr Cui said here recently during the ongoing media seminar that the amount of annual television drama production investment is over ¥24 billion while the amount of annual national television drama sales is over ¥26.5 billion.
“The amount of Chinese television drama import in 2017 was 302 series with 2,701 episodes. Asia is the main source of Chinese television drama import,” Mr Cui said.
Mr Cui said China has 681 colleges and universities offering journalism and undergraduate degree programmes.
Zambia has less than 10 institutions offering journalism and related courses.
“In China, a survey shows that 48.9 percent of graduates prefer to work in the media with 43.6 percent graduates optimistic about the development of media industry, while 23.3 graduates choose radio and television as the first choice,” he said.
In the newspaper industry, China in 2015 had over 1,906 newspapers published with their circulation reaching 210 million copies.
This is the highest figure of any country in the world and it was targeted at different reader groups.
There are 10 newspaper publications in Zambia.
Regarding internet, China as at the end of 2016 had 731 million internet users with internet penetration rate of 53.2 percent.
China also had 695 million mobile internet users in the same year with the proportion of those using mobile phone to access the internet rising to 95.1 percent.
“The ratio of internet users using desktop dropped slightly to 69.5 percent the ratio of internet users using mobile phones to access the internet was 78.5 percent. In 2016, Webcast users reached 344 million, accounting for 47.1 percent of the number of the whole netizens,” according to SAPPRFT).
Like everywhere else, traditional media in China is under the threat of being overtaken or worse still face extinction with the emergence of new media (internet).
However, People’s Daily senior editor Cui Shixin contends and presents a holistic argument and the way forward to ensure traditional media survives anywhere in the world, including Zambia.
Mr Cui says traditional media may “physically disappear and not spiritually” because people still desire and are in dire need of listening to credible and reliable news.
“The hardcopy newspaper or radio set may disappear but not the (media) institutions. This is as evidenced by the evolution of the media and tools over the years whenever new media challenges traditional media.
“For example, when people are driving cars, they cannot watch television or be on mobile phones but they can listen to the radio,” he elucidated.
Mr Cui said traditional media remains relevant in the face of new media because of its credibility and professionalism which people seek for avoidance of doubt.
He said media convergence is the solution for the survival of print media, emphasising that traditional media should converge with internet.
“In print media, we need to start using all platforms and become all-round media professionals who can multi-task. Journalists in print media should be trained to use various skills and new media tools apart from writing articles.
“Articles in traditional media should be in-depth and become more analytical and professional,” Mr Cui said.
Zambia should indubitably take the proverbial ‘leaf’ from China’s media development to conform to modern trends and effectively fend off the threat of new media against traditional media as this is key to the development and continuous civilisation of the country.
CHIMWEMWE MWALE, Beijing