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Party’s Mouthpiece Newspapers Are Growing in Spite of the Trend

Because online media have had an effect, many media in China have been unable to make ends meet due to the drop in advertising revenue. Around New Year’s Day 2019, more than ten paper-based media such as Beijing Morning Post, Beijing Suburban Daily and Heilongjiang Morning News had ceased publication. Another reason for the suspension is related to the authorities’ tightened control over what the reporters can cover.

A political observer published an article on Monday February 11, pointing out that the Internet is “killing” traditional media. In particular, the popularity of smartphones and social media has led to a “free fall” in the circulation and advertising volume of newspapers and magazines. The advertising revenue of Chinese newspapers has shrunk from 41 billion yuan (US$60.6 billion) in 2012 to 10.2 billion yuan (US$1.5 billion) in 2016, a drop of three-quarters in just four years. This is also comparable to the decline in the American newspaper industry.

A unique phenomenon in the decline of traditional media in China is that most of the publications that went down or died are local morning and evening newspapers concentrating on stories about local people and events, while the party’s mouthpiece newspapers have not stopped their publications but have generally exhibited a trend of growth. Researchers found that the party’s mouthpiece newspapers have a variety of new sources of income, including local governments’ direct subsidies. For example, Guangzhou Daily, the mouthpiece for the Guangzhou Chinese Communist Party Committee, received a subsidy of 350 million yuan (US$52 million) in 2016. Local governments also put a number of advertisements in the party newspapers to promote their political achievements. Amid the current wave of anti-corruption campaigns, officials dare not put money into their own pockets, but choose to spend money on party newspaper advertisements in order to benefit their careers. In addition, officials need to read the party newspapers to understand the policy trends. They can also showcase their political awareness by subscribing to many party newspapers. All these have led to an increase in the circulation of party newspapers.

An observer told Radio Free Asia, “Because the media is controlled, the media that the party runs still relies on fiscal expenditures. On newspaper subscriptions, every year the provincial government and the provincial propaganda department issue directives to tell us which newspapers we need to subscribe to. People’s Daily and Beijing Daily, (we have to subscribe to them).”

Yang Shaozheng, a former professor at Guizhou University, told RFA that, in mainland China, there is no real market-oriented media. All media have the surname of “party,” but some media are more market-oriented. The cessation of the metropolitan and local newspapers is a good thing for the Chinese Communist Party. “In that case, the Communist Party can shrink the battle’s front line and make sure all the mouthpieces have one voice, which is the voice of the party. The whole country’s ideologies are unified.”

Source: Radio Free Asia, February 13, 2019