In January 2001, the Central Committee and the State Council issued this document, no. GBF 17, or simply Document no. 17. This was a highly secretive document, that was only distributed to high officials in the propaganda system, as it included – amongst others – the assertion that Chinese media are the property of the Party, rather than the State. It also provided the groundwork for the the next phase of structural adjustment in the media sector, amongst others in response to the feared influx of foreign media. A section of the document, outlining the major policy objectives, has been quoted in Principles of Modern Journalism 当代新闻学原理 by Liu Jiaming 刘建明 (p. 489 et seq.) and is translated here.
Entering the 21st century, the Party Centre put forward a series of reform policies for the Party governing the media. After accession to the WTO, opening up to the outside world was further expanded, and the press, publications, radio, film and television sector face new changes, and must grasp the favourable opportunity to deepen reform and accelerate development. The main policies put forward by the Party Centre on media reform are:
(1) Persisting in the guiding ideology of the “Two Fors”
Fully considering our country’s national situation, abiding by the rules of the market economy and the inherent requirements of press, publishing, radio , film and television sector development, learning from the successful experiences in reform in the economic sphere and foreign beneficial methods, benefits giving rein to the vigour of the press, publications, radio, film and television workers, benefits stimulating the healthy development and flourishing of undertakings, benefits satisfying the popular masses’ daily increasing spiritual culture needs, and serving the people and serving socialism even better, as well as persisting in serving the larger picture of the work of the entire Party and the entire country.
All sorts of media must transform from a planned economic system to an economic system adapted to the market, transform from fragmented business into scaled-up business, transform from mainly expanding quality to mainly raising quality, and march the development path of a Socialist press, publications, radio, film and television sector with Chinese characteristics.
(2) The content of news and propaganda must make the people satisfied.
Propaganda and ideological work must reflect the times, grasp regularity, be rich in creativity, stick close to reality, stick close to the masses and stick close to life, striving to start a new work picture in a new reality. Propaganda and ideological work must completely persist in the correct orientation, unify reflecting the ideals of the Party with reflecting the aspirations of the people, realistically strengthen the focus, effectiveness attractiveness and infectiousness of work. The Party is the faithful representative of the basic interest of the broadest people of China, and the Party has no private interests of its own outside the interest of the people, this has decided the consistency of propaganda and ideological work with the responsibilities of the Party and responsibilities of the People. Propagating the standpoints of the Party, persists in unity, stability and encouragement, mainly propagating the positive side, and putting persisting in the correct orientation first throughout, and is the concentrated reflection of the people’s interest. At the same time, we must also recognized that, because the society finds itself in a key period of systemic transformation, new systems and policies must be incessantly perfected; because of a number of work segments, such as a number of localities and departments’ bureaucratism, formalism or even corruption by a small number of leading cadres, caused the Party’s policies to not have been implemented very well, and the interest of the masses to not have been realized very well, we must give high regard to reflecting the aspirations of the people, and unify the standpoints of the Party with the interest of the people even better. Correct news guidance must be reflected in persisting in the correct political orientation, and must be reflected in the effects of propaganda. It is necessary to improve propaganda methods, raise guidance levels, pay close attention to the direct interests of the masses, relate to the personal reality of the masses, use the language of the masses, report truthful content, and matters having news value, making our work stick close to reality, close to the masses and close to life. To evaluate spiritual cultural products, must finally consider whether the people are satisfied or not, and whether the people welcome it or not.
(3) Perfecting media management mechanisms and systems
Implementing central and provincial, autonomous region and municipal regulation at two levels, with unified Party Committee leadership and supervision and management by relevant State departments, coordinating sector management and localized management, clarifying the duties of sponsoring and controlling work units. Comprehensively utilizing legal, economic, administrative and other methods to implement macro-level regulation over orientation, quantities, distribution, structuring, quality and effect. Strengthening the guidance of spiritual cultural product production and circulation, strengthening State-owned assets and investment supervision and management, strengthening cross-region and cross-sector operation management, strengthening information feedback. Strictly implementing sector access and licensing systems, implementing systemic management over production, transmission, broadcast and screening, market sales and other main segments.
Adjusting distribution completing market systems, standardizing market order, stimulating interaction and integration. Expanding State-owned main channels, giving rein to their backbone function, strengthening influence and radiation over the market. Striving to shape fair competition and survival of the fittest, shaping effective mechanisms for excellent spiritual culture products to occupy the market. Persisting in putting ourselves first and taking what we can use, determining quantities and distribution, in a planned, measured and selective manner expanding opening up. Vigorously implementing the “marching out” policy, strengthening foreign exchange, breaking through in focus points, striving for actual results. Selecting foreign famous media groups with standardized management, advanced technology, that are creditworthy and reliable, and friendly to us to conduct cooperation, attracting foreign advanced technology, management experience and excellent products.
(4) Establishing policy, law and regulation systems.
With the constitution as basis, and laws as mainstay, coordinated and supplemented by regulations, rules and policies, coordinating and unifying them. According to the characteristics and management needs of the press, publications, radio, film and television sector, rolling out new laws and regulations, revising and abolishing laws and regulations that are no longer suitable, timely transforming relevant policies into laws and regulations through the legislative procedures. Firmly grasping the formulation of laws and regulations that stimulate reform and opening up, strengthen macro-level regulation, standardize market order, protect intellectual property rights and ethnic or folk cultural heritage, safeguard the cultural rights and interests of citizens, etc. Doing legal and regulatory revision work in relation to relevant international rules well, learning from the legislative experience of the outside world in protecting ethnic culture and social security, establishing protective screens.
(5) Cautiously and safely organizing media groups.
Vigorously moving grouping construction forward, enlarging and strengthening groups. On the basis of existing trials, forming some large-scale newspaper groups, publishing groups, distribution groups, radio and television groups and film groups, those meeting conditions may form large-scale cross-regional multimedia news groups with approval. Groups bear duties of completing propaganda and cultural work and a responsibility to preserve or increase the value of State-owned assets, they are responsible for grasping orientations, formulating plans, strengthening asset operations and financial management. It is necessary to standardize the relationships of rights and obligations between group members, clarify asset operation responsibilities, complement superiorities, share resources, share profits and jointly bear risks, with capital and business as linkage, and on the basis of defining property rights. It is necessary to earnestly conduct management structure reform and operational mechanism transformation, strengthen the influence and competitiveness of groups.
Newspaper groups are comprehensive press and publications business models with some newspapers and periodicals at the core. In our country, media management organs consider newspaper groups without exception as having an undertaking nature, and respectively have newspapers of central, provincial level Party Committee organs, or Party Committee organs in provincial capital cities and plan-listed cities with corresponding strength as the leader. Radio and television groups have radio and television stations as main subjects, and concurrently operate newspapers and periodical, book, audiovisual and electronic publishing and film production, shaping a comprehensive electronic media organization. Film groups may produce radio and television programmes, and jointly operate film channels together with television stations. Newspaper groups, publishing groups and distribution groups are encouraged to implement strong linkages. The Xinhua Press Agency may operate newspaper and periodical publishers, publishing houses and provide television news in special cases, which require reporting for approval.
Publishing groups, distribution groups and film groups are encouraged to operate across regions, selecting central and a number of provincial-level newspaper groups and radio and television groups to operate across regions. Cross-regional operation must be approved, and methods such as merging, reorganization and joint operation are to be mainly adopted, focusing on intensive development, preventing duplicate construction. Implementing that cross-regionally operating groups are responsible for the propaganda orientation and operational orientation of their subordinate work units, and accept the localized management of the Party Committee and relevant government departments in their locality, all levels’ Party Committees and government departments must provide desirable conditions for cross-regional operations.
(6) Starting secure and effective funding channels, raising the efficiency of capital operation
News media are to be sponsored and operated by the State, and no private investment or private capital is attracted. On the basis of the development requirements of undertakings, newspaper groups, publishing groups and region and television groups may be funded by press and publications or radio, film and television departments with approval of the press and propaganda leading department, their operational departments (newspaper and periodical printing and distribution, radio and television transmission networks, etc.), may take the form of a limited liability company or a share-holding limited company with approval, controlled by the group, and accept funding from State-owned large-scale enterprise and undertaking work units, but the investor may not participate in propaganda business. Distribution groups may accept State-owned funding, non-State-owned funding and foreign funding with approval, to be controlled by that group. Film groups may, under the precondition that the group controls it, accept State-owned funding, and non-State-owned funding, and may accept foreign funding for coproducing films and transforming cinemas with approval. Large-scale groups may obtain export business rights with State approval. In the process of attracting funds and conducting shareholding reform, implementing relevant State policies and doing asset appraisal work well, realistically guaranteeing the rights and interests of the State, strictly prohibiting that State-owned assets are sold at low price or allocated free of charge to individuals through shareholding methods. Concrete rules on finances will be formulated by SARFT and the General Administration of Press and Publications according to relevant State policies.
Generally speaking, the main goals of press reform is: completing a leadership structure integrating Party Committee leadership and legal person governance structures, establishing organizational structures separating propaganda business from operational business, and shaping operational and management models adapted to the requirements of the market, and that are able to regulate forcefully.