BBC's sudden brain death

I have always thought BBC was better than CNN (though not as good as the Economist, but certainly on par with the Guardian).

Well, it could be brain dead at time.

In a bid to defend its (and the fellow western media's) "neutral" coverage, it went in great length to show that it is better than "People's Daily"! So now we all know the western media are as fair and unbiased as Xinhua and People's Daily.
Even after so much disappointment not just recently, I still held thought that they were way above the bar set by the Xinhua's and PD's. Seems that BBC is telling me I was wrong.

(via http://gavinski.stumbleupon.com/)

Update: is the West justified in criticizing China in its human right record? Yes, according to this Chinese writer. But just say human right, the situation in Tibet is mild compared with many other places in China.

--- (cached below)

18:55 GMT, Thursday, 10 April 2008 19:55 UK
Olympic media coverage: China vs West

Pro-Tibet protests disrupting the Olympic torch relay have dominated many Western media outlets recently.

But is the coverage itself perpetuating anti-China bias? And how are Chinese journalists covering the same events? Here is a snapshot of some of the prominent coverage:

US press
There was a tight focus on the protests and the disruption they caused.
The New York Times described the torch's progress around the city as an "elaborate game of hide-and-seek... as city officials secretly rerouted the planned torch relay, swarmed its runners with blankets of security and then whisked the torch to the airport in a heavily guarded motorcade".
The San Francisco Chronicle also focused heavily on the change of route. Under the headline: "No torch, no problem - they came to protest", the paper painted a picture of a colourful array of protesters, all with different axes to grind, both pro and anti-China.
In a strident editorial, the Washington Post reflected on the events, saying: "The Chinese are seeing for themselves how public opinion around the world has been repulsed by their government's cynical and amoral foreign policy in places such as Sudan and Burma and by its repression of the Tibetan minority."
Chinese press
Under headlines including "Olympic torch relay concludes in San Francisco without major incidents" and "Chinese ambassador: Olympic torch relay in San Francisco 'successful'", state-run news agency Xinhua generally painted a positive picture of the relay.
The protests were mentioned in Xinhua's main news story, where it reported: "At one point, Tibetan separatists tried to disrupt the torch relay. They tried to grab the torch, but were pushed back by police escorting the torch relay."
Further down, the Xinhua article states: "Many San Francisco citizens expressed dismay at attempts to link the Olympic Games with politics."
Another state-run outlet, China Daily, carried articles similar in tone, with headlines including: "San Franciscans denounce disruptions." It also published picture galleries of angry clashes between pro-China and anti-China demonstrators.

French press
There were straightforward headlines, including Le Parisien's "The fiasco" and L'Equipe's "Paris extinguishes the flame", combined with much reporting of the protests, with colour from the scene in most papers.
The left-leaning daily Liberation reported how the torch was greeted with jeers by protesters, who threw flags with an image of Olympic rings as handcuffs.
Right-leaning Le Figaro had some words of comfort for the Chinese government, arguing in an editorial: "While the defence of Tibetans is a noble cause, the gesticulations that we have witnessed over the holding of the Olympic Games in Paris are exaggerated."
The paper claims that the Beijing Olympics is a "golden opportunity" to advance the cause of liberty in China.
Chinese press
Xinhua's coverage of the Paris protests kicked off with the headline "French official lashes out at 'kidnapping of Olympics'".
In the archive of Xinhua's website, direct reporting of the protests that accompanied the torch around Paris is scant.
A one-line dispatch states: "The Olympic Torch was put on an accompanying bus due to technical reasons for the third time during its relay in the French capital Monday afternoon, a Xinhua photographer witnessed."
But there was considerable focus on the torchbearers, particularly Jin Jing, a disabled athlete who competes in the Paralympics. She was holding the torch during protests.
The Shanghai Daily reported: "A craven protester has attacked a wheelchair-bound female torchbearer from Shanghai being pushed by a blind Chinese teammate during the Paris section of the Beijing Olympics torch relay."
Xinhua also focused on Ms Jin, putting out several dispatches describing her bravery and reporting on how she received a hero's welcome when she returned home.

UK press
Even before the torch touched down in London, the British media was speculating about possible protests.
On 5 April the Times reported under the headline "Police fear Olympic torch protests after China shootings in Tibet", following up the next day with "Met on protest alert as Olympic torch lands".
The Daily Telegraph preview of the London torch route concluded that the protests were "bringing light to political murk", and the paper's website later invited its readers to answer the question: Will you be boycotting the 2008 Olympics?
The tabloids rustled up a chorus of disapproval of China, with the Daily Mirror labelling the London leg of the torch's journey a "disturbing farce".
Under the headline "flaming injustice", the Mirror said: "The oppressive security needed to protect the Olympic torch in London should ram home to China's dictators what the world really thinks of them."

Chinese press
One of Xinhua's main news stories began with a flowery passage proclaiming: "The unseasonable snow in London did little to dampen people's passion for Beijing's Olympic flame as large crowds lined the street to greet the torch relay on Sunday."
The piece went on to describe the torch as a "sacred symbol of the Olympic spirit" spreading the "ideal of peace, friendship and progress" and labelled any attempt to "sabotage" the torch relay as running "against the trend of the times".
Xinhua published several pieces devoted to the protests, under headlines including "London police foil attempt to grab Olympic torch away".
But the main focus of their coverage was the colour and carnival of the torch's procession - an interview with classical violinist Vanessa Mae was more typical.


88 said...

An important point to make is that it simply doesn't matter if on a particular issue the Chinese media's reports are "less biased" than reports of the "western media" (you should really call this the "mainstream media" -- and even that is a vast oversimplification.) Why doesn't it matter?

The Chinese media have a damaged brand. The fact that it is state-controlled and heavily censored, along with its 50-year history of blatant lying on a daily basis, comes to one thing: no one in the West will ever take it seriously. And when I say "blatant lying," I am not talking about "bias." There is a quantum difference between "bias" and knowing, outright fabrication.

Why does this matter? Actually, having a state-controlled party apparatus for a press is harming the Chinese government in this sense. How? Because even when the Chinese government is right, no one will believe them. Same goes for the Chinese press, obviously.

Actually, I can see many instances in which the CCP is right, but they have a credibility gap that can never be overcome with their current media system (at least in the West). Of course, plenty of news organizations have a credibility gap in the West, also -- but for entirely different reasons.

I am not defending the BBC, CNN or anyone else -- I am merely describing a structural problem that the Chinese media (and ergo the CCP) have.

XniteMan said...

Yeah, but the western mainstream media are also lying, they are not just "biased".

I'm also not defending the Chinese media, I'm just stating a fact.

momo said...

Well, OK, so the Chinese media controlled by the state has always told lies. I live in a place where we were, until recently,used to media controlled by vested political interests that told lies or just shut out facts.
But now the Western media has been caught fabricating stories and telling lies as well.
Their readers feel their back up against the wall: their media, one of the pillars of freedom and democracy, fibbing!!!
The lame excuse: well, your Chinese lies are bigger than our lies!
Eh? Sounds like two schoolboys at a urinal saying, I can shoot further than you!
Isn't a lie just a lie? Is there a quantum?

IAT455 Textbook said...

A youtube video to rebuff BBC's claim Chinese media didn't show about protest in London.


I sometimes want to smack those reporter's smirking faces. You could tell very well that they are mocking you. They felt soooo superior and happy that you are in this misery situation.

I admit Chinese media doesn't have a good reputation and all, and it's not unbiased and always truthful. But like the blogger said above, should they be reputed as the Chinese media above? If they are so boastful of their unbiased and truthful report, then keep their report on that level too!

cc said...

They are caught again. I can't believe it. They are either genius or have been doing this too much and too long to hibernate for a while.

Recluse said...

Now I wonder if the Western mainstream media is unaware that most Chinese read Xinhua, People's Daily, watch CCTV with a grain of salt knowing that those CCP's mouthpiece deliver propaganda material along the party line, or they just choose to ignore it, and take every opportunity to paint it black.

88 said...

Lots of people say that most Chinese don't take the Chinese media seriously, etc., but if you actually asked most Chinese for their views on particular subjects (Tibet, Taiwan, human rights, FLG, democracy, Chinese history, etc., etc.) their views exactly mirror the views presented in the Chinese media on a daily basis. Can you explain that? Is that just a coincidence? I do think people like to tell themselves that the Chinese media is full of shit, but they don't realize that they agree with almost every word that it puts out. They like to think that they are immune to it or above it, but it has shaped every view that they have since they were born.

People are limited by the information they have, both through their education and the media. The same is true in the West, but it works differently. This is true everywhere.

neo said...

To 88,

"their views exactly mirror the views presented in the Chinese media on a daily basis"

well, there is nothing wrong with that, we know what our interests are, and Chinese government did a good job to represent our national interest when it comes to issues like Taiwan, Tibet, etc..

Hard to believe, right? deal with it..

Anonymous said...

if you actually asked most Chinese for their views on particular subjects (Tibet, Taiwan, human rights, FLG, democracy, Chinese history, etc., etc.) their views exactly mirror the views presented in the Chinese media on a daily basis. Can you ,explain that?

It's actually quite simple. If you live in a one party authoritarian state and someone you don't know well asks what you think, you are not going to reply that you disagree strongly with the government. You are likely to repeat the party line whether you believe if or not.

This makes it difficult to figure out what people really think. Sometimes people really *don't* believe the government viewpoint, but they just aren't going to tell a stranger that. Sometimes they really *do* believe the government viewpoint, in which case the don't have any limits on saying what they think.

It gets even more complex because typically a person will agree with the government on some issues and disagree with them on others. But you have to know someone very well before they will tell you which is which.

People are limited by the information they have, both through their education and the media. The same is true in the West, but it works differently. This is true everywhere.

Educated Chinese that really are interested in finding things out usually have a much broader view of things than most educated Americans, since there is higher English reading ability and also there are more people in China with close relations in the West than people in the West with close relations in China. So access to information really isn't a major factor in opinions I think.

88 said...

>>Educated Chinese that really are interested in finding things out usually have a much broader view of things than most educated Americans

On the contrary, in my experience the more educated they are, the more narrowly nationalist their viewpoint tends to be. Go check mitbbs. They've already started the daily witch-hunt for "traitors to China." They even have a blacklist. (Anyone who says the CR was all Mao's fault is really clueless - i.e. most of the Western world.)

>>So access to information really isn't a major factor in opinions I think.

1) What percentage of Chinese read news in English, use proxies to evade the firewall, or live overseas? I say it is less than 5% (if that) of the 1.3 billion. What is your estimate? The fact that a very tiny minority of Chinese get information from outside of official channels doesn't really mean much.

Also, access to information means next to nothing if you don't have the desire or capability to use that access. For example, many Americans have access to all sorts of information, but they choose to get their news from FOX or CNN. And even if they did access other sources, many of them aren't open-minded enough to digest any of it in any format other than the predigested narratives that they learned by the time they were 12-years-old. The same applies to Chinese -- but only more so, because they grew-up in a more restrictive media environment.

>>well, there is nothing wrong with that, we know what our interests are

So I guess the theory that "no Chinese believe what the Chinese media says" really is just a self-deluding myth. You just made my point for me.

This is just like "reform" in China. Everyone is for "reform" in the abstract, but against it in almost every particular. No one "believes the Chinese media" in the abstract, but they agree with it in almost every particular. (But don't worry -- they don't believe stories that use fake photos of tigers.)

Sun Bin said...


well, it is true that quite some people do believe the state propaganda. but once reminded they will realize that is propaganda very quickly.

an example being, in the past, i was repeatedly asked about Tung Chee Hua. "didn't you HK people elected him?" once i said this is propaganda, they quickly understood and realized what they heard it's really all the truth.

this is the difference between how they view the state media vs those media abroad. so it is hard for them to accept what has recently been spit out from the "cnn's", especially some of which are so blatantly off from 'neutrality'. of course, they would not know about how iraq has been reported and fox or even WSJ vs NYT, and they would not know even western media are often biased in their own way.
to them western media are 'pure', compared with their own.

regarding your examples on "(Tibet, Taiwan, human rights, FLG, democracy, Chinese history, etc., etc.) ". there are subtle and not-so-subtle difference between what the people see and what the propaganda machine says, which are often ignored by even the more seasoned western observers.
1) FLG - since they have not seen Epoch Times, etc. they are actually less critical about FLG than we do. They just view then as some cult which opppses and is opposed by C-cp
2) tibet/taiwan. their nationalism (or patriotism) sentiment actually align with the state. so even they know the state is biased in terms of fairness/human right towards these issues, they still choose to go with it. this is an issue of free will vs brainwashed, which is not easy for westerners to understand. think about the Bush supporters and "the american patriotss".
going with the state's understanding and accepting its bias is different from going with the state blindly.
same for the 'history' issue
3) democracy -- well, not just those inside PRC, even many overseas chinese are now taking the view of pragmatism. you need to understand that to the laymen (i.e. many chinese), democracy is a means to have a better government (and a better livelihood, 'stronger nation') not an end. so given the GDP growth and general propserity they are willing to set aside democracy, which has never really been their objective anyway.

one test i would suggest is, to compare the views of overseas chinese (HK "lefties", overseas students) with those inside the mainland. then you will know if it is the work of the propaganda machine, or if it is real coincidence/alignemnt.

one cannot say, e.g., the overseas chinese which formed the core of the demonstration crowd in SF, are brainwashed by People's Daily.

88 said...

>>they would not know even western media are often biased in their own way.

The biggest misconception most Chinese have about "free media" is that it is supposed to be "unbiased." Actually, I had to laugh when I saw so many people exclaiming that they had proof that CNN (etc.) was biased. No shit it is biased. Virtually every political argument inside the US ultimately comes back to media bias. The misconception is that free media is supposed to equal unbiased media, when actually they only have a tangential relationship.

A free press is better than a state-controlled press not because one is "biased" and one isn't. A free press is better because you are allowed to point out its biases, whereas you don't have that option in the other system. Also, in a free system you have many different sources you can get information from; i.e., you can choose which news organization or blogs, etc., that you think are less biased (that you agree with -- there is no such thing as 'unbiased'). Finally, in a free system you can start your own media outlet (blog, newspaper, whatever) and say whatever you want. For example, you can say how biased the rest of the media is.

All of that is pretty basic -- and I know you know all of this -- but most Chinese simply don't get this and instead seem to think that the discovery that CNN is biased has revealed the entire system of free media as some sort of sham.

About the Chinese media, well, it is complicated, but there is no question that the views of most Chinese are formed by the media and their education (i.e., the state). I'm amazed that anyone disputes that statement. This does not mean Chinese have been "brainwashed," but arguing that "most Chinese don't believe the Chinese media and are very skeptical of it" is just patently false. You can test this easily: come up with a set of _specific_ issues and compare the official government/media position with the position of the typical Chinese. How do they match up? I don't believe the obvious correlation is the result of a coincidence.

Sun Bin said...

1) I think the problem is more of a "helplessness" that the western media are predominantly pro-T-I.
-- we know that there are more complicated reasons behind this as many have discussed, including what DL has done right and what C-cp has done wrong PR-wise; to what the incidence 19 years ago, which has shaped (perhaps rightly so) that 'C-cp is brutal' impression.

i would tend to focus more on the "informed", eg chinese graduate students overseas. i wouldn't say they do not realize such as difference. they are perhaps more enraged by the fact that despite the free press, the view is so much against China -- without understanding (or chose to ignore that this contribute to the present day view) how such a situation has been formed since 19 years ago (perhaps longer).
As a result, they have chosen to expose the more ugly side of this tillted view (i.e., the racial subtext (see Chinalawblog's link) / containment insinuation which all plays into this) as the reason behind, whether knowingly or unknowingly ignored the other reasons that shaped the current "western media" views.

2) about "shaping" the view of the chinese people. i suppose you are saying that, education/etc (i.e., not just the media) form part of such shaping, which i agree. however, i would say that the western view of the "specific issues" are inevitably different from that of the chinese, EVEN if there is free press press/education/etc. In a way, the Chinese today are no different from the South Korean, (or even the Americans), including the fact that many "well educated" are also the more nationalistic.
To quote an example of the 'specific issues', is to compare what the average Chinese toward Japan's bid for permanent US seat, with that of Palestinian to Israeli or Israeli on Palestine.There are more rational Israelis (ie even those who are totally in favor of the Palestinian cause). The same is true for the Chinese (we have people like Wang Lixiong).

The difference is, (I think you are spot on here) how many of these voices you hear in China vs how many you hear in Israel. One really does not know. Though we can perhaps agree that the dissident voice in China is less heard of due to lack of speech freedom.

88 said...

Sun Bin,

I think this is the best description I have seen of the problem:


I'm actually amazed that whoever wrote that hasn't been attacked yet, but in any case, I think that post is a good summary of the problem.

Sun Bin said...

let's me first paste the whole post here.

发信人: unsure06 (风往一边吹), 信区: Overseas
标 题: 为什么西方主流媒体对我们不待见?
发信站: BBS 未名空间站 (Sun Apr 13 13:10:14 2008)

1) 我们是共产主义国家,我们的党章宗旨是要解放全世界(包括解放他们)。他
2) 西方人对中国还知道文革,看到过很多中国人的狂热,标语口号的海洋和毫无
3) 西方人还知道我们的媒体包括互联网都是政府控制的,我们自己也知道我们的
4) 从大家近期的经历可以知道,90%的西方人都支持ZD,为什么?绝大多数的他们
。Free Anhui照常会在西方很有市场,为什么?你我都知道。所以西方人觉得不理解,


IMO it sounds a fair statement, but there are a few issues
1) it is true that it is the "market interaction" which has influenced the MSM. so it is correct that China needs to influence the people, instead of accusing the MSM, if it wants to deliver its message.
however, one should admit that MSM does have the ability to shape opinion of the mass (hence the market) -- as much as the propaganda machine shaped PRC opinion

2) true, the less informed in the west still think about comintern. but as Zoellick spelled out 2 years ago, PRC is not USSR and no one is trying to liberate the world any more (instead, it is US which wants to liberate the world, ironically)
however, he made a good point (which you made) that the fact they they still call themselves communist definitely made some enemy outside

3) historic bruden. i would add June the 4-th. which creates a scar even deeper than C.R.

4) it ignored the geopolitical / racial subtext/etc. but that post is not intended as a comprehensive treatise