China’s banal news narrative mocked by netizens
Recently a post titled “Quintessence of contents of China Central Television’s News Broadcast in the past 30 years” is being circulated in Chinese blogosphere. Using 20 fill-in-the-blank sentences, it sums up the News Broadcast’s rhetoric full of boilerplate and formality that has remained unchanged for decades.
Xinwen Lianbo on January 28, 1991
Xinwen Lianbo on January 15, 2010
Xinwen Lianbo, or News Broadcast, is a news program on CCTV that is shown to viewers nationwide at 7:00 p.m. every day. Chinese netizens characterized the program by listing 20 sentence patterns, in which elements of time, persons, place, etc. are missing and replaced with blanks. After all the blanks are filled, a typical news report is ready to serve for the day. The 20 sentences can be divided into three parts: First, national leaders visit foreign countries and/or meet with foreign guests; second, progress and achievements in the domestic construction and people’s wellbeing; third, natural disasters and manmade catastrophes around the world going on continually.
A netizen summarized what Xinwen Lianbo is all about, “Leaders are very busy. Chinese people are very happy. Foreign people are very tragic.”
20 fill-in-the-blank sample sentences
1.Today is ____(month/day/year), _____ (month/day) in lunar calendar. It is __ days away from _____. (Jing’s note: Countdown to a mega event, such as the Olympics, Asian Games, Word Expo) Let’s have a quick preview of today’s program: _____, _____, ______. Now come the detailed news reports.
2.____ welcomed ____ cordially at Diaoyutai State Guesthouse. Two parties had a hearty and friendly conversation. ____ spoke highly of ____, and expressed appreciation for ____’s adhering to One-China Policy(Jing’s note: One China means repudiating any diplomatic relation with Taiwan and not recognizing Taiwan as a sovereignty.)
3.____ visited ____, met ____. _____ spoke highly of the relations between China and ____, welcomed ___, and strongly condemned how ___(a foreign country) handled ____.
4.____ Conference was solemnly opened in Beijing. ____ delivered speech at the opening ceremony. ____ bill was passed with ____ votes for, zero against and one abstention.
5. Foreign Ministry Spokesperson____ issued a statement with regard to ____, expressed disappointment at ____, lodged a protest against ___, and would keep watching it closely.
6.____ had a phone call conversation with ____ regarding ___, expressing heartfelt condolences over _____. 7. During the “__th Five Year Plan,” our country’s priority project ___, broke fresh ground in the spheres of ____, brought in economic benefit of ____, collected a revenue of ____.
8.____, accompanied by ____, came to __’s home despite the trouble of traveling thousands of miles, brought ___ holiday wishes and warm greetings, and watched ____ with great interest. ___ held ___’s hands and said excitedly ______.
9. ____Village in ____ County of ____ City, ____ Province ratcheted up efforts to learn the important spirit of “____”, explored effective ways of doing more practical work for farmers’ benefit. Show concern for the people and work for interests of the people. Within one year it has solved practical problems for ___ farmers, and is praised by the farmers.
10.____ Customs intensified efforts to combat contraband, and cracked a case of smuggling, seized __ (number) ___ (item) with a total value of RMB___ yuan.
11. Today is ____ Day. People and students in various parts of the country poured onto the streets, advocating and promoting the knowledge of ___ and stepping up the education campaign of ____.
12.Cause of the ____ incident has been found out. Relevant parties accountable have been detained.
13. Today is the __th anniversary of ___’s birth. ___ held a symposium, discussed ___ in depth in memory of ___.
14. Quick view: China’s ____ was widely praised by countries all over the world. The erroneous decision of ______ was not accepted by the international community.
15. The people of ____ (a foreign country) are discontent with ____. They held a demonstration. The unrest has been going on for ___ days.
16. A ___-magnitude earthquake hit _____ (a foreign country). So far casualties have reached ___. China has sent a rescue team consisting of ___ people to the disaster area.
17. A devastating hurricane hit _____ (a foreign country). _____ people were affected by the disaster, causing a direct economic loss of ___ dollars.
18. ____, ____, for more, please watch the program Focus aired at 19:38 this evening.
19. Comrade ___, (name) outstanding member of China Communist ___, time-tested loyal fighter, a proletarian ___, eminent __ of our country, former ___, died in Beijing at the age of ___ at ___ (time) on ___ (month/day/year).
20. It’s the end of Xinwen Lianbo. Thank you for watching.
Xinwen Lianbo, first launced on January 1, 1978, has been 33 years old. Its wording, production and broadcasting model, and even the opening titles and music run in the same groove as 30 years ago.
Pang Zhong, former director of Phoenix TV now living in the United States, said that the CCTV’s Xinwen Lianbo has to pass the scrutiny of different levels. Editors and reporters have no autonomy in decision-making.
“Every day, before it is aired at seven o’clock, the draft has to be reviewed twice, the first time at three o’clock, and after faults have been corrected, the second time right before the broadcast. The biggest thing you may want ensure is that the program runs with no fault. Any fault is a political issue. So they do their best to formularize and stereotype it and make sure it won’t go wrong,” he said.
Jiang Weiping, who were a journalism practitioner in China for 20 years and now lives in Canada, said that CCTV is a core unit under control of Chinese Communist Party’s Central Propaganda Department. Xinwen Lianbo is the top priority of CCTV. Even the pass to the editors’ office of the program is different from other departments.
“It is extremely difficult to gain access to Xinwen Lianbo’s office. You have to go through multiple checks. Say, you work in the CCTV building. Each story, or even each office room, issues its own ID. The rooms of Xinwen Lianbo is heavily guarded. They are directly under the military jurisdiction. Supervision over it is very tight,” Pang Zhong said.
As for criticisms of Xinwen Lianbo being ossified and predictable, Pang Zhong said that the real editor-in-chief is the head of the Central Propaganda Department. His only job is to see to it that everything is politically correct.
“What he is in charge of is actually the assistant directors at the State Administration of Radio Film and Television. They are the real editors. Head of CCTV’s news department and even head of CCTV itself have to follow their directives,” Pang said.
Jiang Weiping reaffirmed that this statement is true. He said that with regard to news programs on CCTV, especially Xinwen Lianbo, editors and reporters at the TV station do not have any say.
“I talked with Luo Jing (Jing’s note: Luo Jing, as one of the handful of news presenters on Xinwen Lianbo, was a household name in China and died of cancer in 2009)in private about that. He said they (news presenters) are in fact stage props. Voices of the Central Government come out through them. Scripts are reviewed by censors at all levels. Leaders in the politburo of fairly high ranking must have a look at them. The main tone needs examining. A problem can land one in serious trouble. Therefore, it has to be this way.”