Copyright Financial Express
THE BBC World Service has launched a website
targeted at the mainland Chinese market, offering
English-language training and news that is unlikely to
upset Beijing’s internet censors.
China has long blocked access to the British
broadcaster’s main Chinese website,
www.BBCChinese.com, which, on February 03, led with a
story about US forecasts that Beijing’s suppression of
dissent could undermine national stability.
By contrast, the top item on the broadcaster’s new
www.BBC China.com.cn site was a Chinese -language news
story on the much less sensitive topic — to Beijing
officials at least — about the row surrounding
cartoon images of the Prophet Mohammed.
The new website and the adoption of a domain name with
the Chinese cn ending mark a big step forward in the
BBC’s efforts to build a presence in one of the
world’s fastest growing media and education markets.
However, the decision to avoid including any of the
broadcaster’s often hard-hitting China coverage could
expose it to charges of bowing to Beijing censors.
Google, the US internet search company, has been
widely criticised for launching a local version of its
service for the Chinese market that actively censors
results that could anger the Communist leadership.
Lorna Ball, head of the BBC Chinese service, said the
new site had not been adapted to avoid causing
political offence and there had been no attempt to
discuss it with Beijing.
The BBC had instead catered to the Chinese market
simply by making the site “lively and exciting and
appealing” to reach the predominantly young group of
people interested in learning English, Ms Ball said.
However, all the Chinese-language China-related news
stories available on the site on February 03 appeared
studiously uncontroversial, including interviews with
a Chinese snooker champion and pop star and a report
on the recent state visit to the UK of China’s
President Hu Jintao.
The site does not have any links to the main BBC
internet service. China has for years blocked the
BBC’s Chinese news but allows internet users in the
country to access some of its English-language
broadcasts and other content.
By focusing largely on English learning, the BBC’s new
site seeks to tap into a huge demand in China.
Andrew Thompson, head of English Language Teaching for
the World Service, said an estimated 200m Chinese were
learning English, making it the biggest
English-language teaching market in the world.
The broadcaster is trying to combat piracy of its
programmes by commercial users by launching its own
CD-Roms of programmes such as From Our Own
Correspondent through a Chinese partner, along with
MP3 downloads from its site.
BBC correspondents have in the past often offered
trenchant reports on Chinese government conduct and it
is unclear if such items will be included in the
programmes made available.