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Chinese Television

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The issue of this essay is television services of China that have undergone remarkable changes since the government policy of open door economic reform in late 1970s. Not many research studies explain the reason of how this changes affected the lives of Chinese people and, moreover, how they shaped the media’s role in society. The main goal of this paper is to interview a person, who lived during this vital period of Chinese media history and outline the changes in television, uses of media in their lifetime and the effects on their personal and social lives. My friends’ grandmother (name) answered some questions related to the development of television industry in China from 1960 to nowadays and I made some conclusions based on her answers and popular magazine articles of different times.

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None of the media in China had such a short but intense and progressively developing history as television - for thirty years, it has grown from a formation to prosperity. Scientific approach to the half-century history of the national CCTV can identify four main stages of the development, each of which is characterized by a more substantial one:

  • 1958 - 1966: activity of the first TV station.
  • 1967 - 1976: television during the "cultural revolution."
  • 1977 - 1982: the period of active development.
  • Since 1983, China's TV starts flourishing.

In the years of (name) youth, in 1978, there were not many families, who had television. Statistics say that, “the PRC had less than one television receiver per 100 people, and fewer than ten million Chinese had access to a television set” (Xiaoping 2001). World Bank reported that “in 2003, there are about 35 TVs for every 100 people” (Xiaoping 2001). It is a fact, that about a billion of Chinese people have access to television. A television industry was also improved. Compared with 1965, when there were only 12 television stations and less than 93 radio stations in China, there are about 700 conventional TV stations and nearly 3,000 cable channels, as well as one thousand radio stations today (Xiaoping 2001).

(Name) told that her family was lucky to have television at that time. She underlined, that not all people had this “magic box that opens a door to the world” at home. First of all, the woman remembered, that her parents were great fans of a popular program, ‘Focus’, that had an impact on political overview of ordinary Chinese people. Really, the phenomenon of this extremely popular program, ‘Focus’, with Jiao Dian Fang Tan had an influence on politics and society in China.

 The birth of the National Television of China (1958, 1966).

On 1 May 1958, the first Chinese TV station - Beijing was established, in October of the same year, a second TV station – Shanghai began to work. (Name) tells that TV news of the initial period were very simple. Its audience were the members of the Communist Party, including the leaders of China. When the first TV appeared at (name)’s house, TV movie filled in 75%, the performances - 15% of the program time. Women in (name)’s family liked to watch serials, that since 1958 to 1966 numbered more than ten hundred. In fact, the first series were televised live; their shape was similar to the show, not the movie (Chang, Wang and Chen 2002).

In April of 1963, the first televised meeting of employees of foreign propaganda TV stations in China was organized. It discussed the issue of improving the quality of export TV program. In 1960, Chinese TV station sent 61 television programs in only 7 countries, while in 1965 it established a relationship by sharing with television organizations of the 27 countries (Guo 1991).

(Name) tells, that at that time there were only a few dozen TV sets, most of which were in the house in government, directly provided by the broadcaster. The day program schedule (and it was in black and white broadcast) was as follows:

19:00 - interview with the pace of industrial production and the head of an agricultural cooperative of May Day celebrations.

19:15 - documentary, calling young people to work in the village.

19:25 - recitation of poems commemorating the beginning of the "great leap forward" in the economy.

19:30 - National Classical Ballet: plays "Four Lebedenko" and "Shepherd and country girl".

19:50 - Soviet scientific and educational film "Television".

TV Difficulties during the "Cultural Revolution" (1967, 1976).

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During the "Cultural Revolution" the control of television programs was very serious. For this reason, the management has banned showing "bad transmission", which depicted the characters’ life during the war, peace propaganda, romantic love etc. It put the Chinese television into a difficult position. At the same time, Beijing TV station stopped working on January 1, 1967. Then, most of the TV stations in China (except Shanghai TV station) were also closed down. In 1968 a provincial TV station returned to normal broadcasting. Since 1971, 20 cities could receive TV programs. On May 1, 1973, Beijing began to show viewers the channel color transfer. By the beginning of 1975, Beijing TV station has started to broadcast color transmission to all other cities. According to statistics, by the end of 1975, there have been 463 thousand TV sets, including 4,000 domestic color television sets throughout the whole country, even in villages. 1976 was a turning point in Chinese policy, as after the "cultural revolution," Chinese TV received new prospects (Zhu & Berry 2009).

(Name) remembers, that at the beginning of the "culture revolution" Beijing TV station (both center) published "Rules of the cultural propaganda of the socialist revolution," which contained the following requirements: broadcast daily on the progress of the "Cultural Revolution" and an overview of its most important events; created (May 15, 1966) a special section of "propaganda of Mao Zedong to combat counter-revolution", which should be prepared by the social and educational program; shooting TV documentaries about the "Cultural Revolution"; organize students and pupils to participate in the programs, criticizing the counter-revolutionaries; strengthen the propaganda of the main provisions of the teachings of Mao Zedong.

Revitalization and restoration of Chinese TV (1977-1982).

On the 1st of January 1978, Beijing began a formal channel to show the transfer of "Series of News", which became the most interesting TV program in China. On the 1st of May 1979, Beijing TV station was renamed to "China Central TV station» (CCTV) and then it became the most famous TV station in the country. In August of 1979, the Central Broadcasting Department held the first meeting of TV programs. They decided that 25 television stations would provide the program for more than hundred hours. It was the first exchange of television production in the history of national television in China. 28 January, 1979 - for the first time in Chinese history, there was the first advertisement, which was shown 8 times on Shanghai channel. (Name) remembers this advertisement about the clothes boutique and underlines that later CCTV started broadcasting advertising of goods and stores, five minutes a day (Zhao & Guo 2007).

In May of 1980, "International News" was included in the transfer of the "Series of News". The success of the "International News" contributed to the development of Chinese national television. (Name) remembers that State News became shorter and lighter, information on the economy, community news, etc. was added. It influenced the public’s general educational level and overview (Zhao & Guo 2007)

The prosperity of the national television of China (1983, 1989).

At the end of March - beginning of April 1983, a meeting was held on 11 television and radio companies throughout the country. The decision of the meeting was that all the cities and counties were allowed to create radio and TV stations. Right after the meeting, television stations were being created one by one. Compared to 1982, when China had less than 20 television stations, in 1985 there were about 172. (Xiaoping 2001)

In 1984, CCTV was involved in the collection of the Asian television network for the exchange of news. In 1986 and 1987, CCTV began to cooperate with the European Broadcasting Union, the American cable network TV news broadcasters and the International community.

On the 1st of February 1986, a second communication satellite was broadcasted. By 1990, there had been 78% programs transmitted via satellite in China. 

On the 15th of March 1988, after a regular meeting, modern color television center of CCTV started to work. It led the Chinese TV and radio up to a new level. According to the results of statistics, in July 1987 the number of Chinese viewers had already reached 600 million (56% of China's population). In 1987 China featured 120 million TV sets (47.8% of households).

(Name) says that, the place of the national television in the electronic media has increased dramatically over the years, and now TV is an integral part of Chinese life. TV largely contributed to shaping the worldview of a new generation in China. In each period, television authorities tried to impose their beliefs and used television with this purpose. Today, it is already independent and shares the information that the audience can already get themselves. A great number of educational and entertainment programs affect the intellectual wealth of the nation and young people today are much more educated thanks to television. In (name)’s time television was a novelty, and there was no such access. With the advent of television, people have learned to think critically and make sense of what is happening. Nowadays, the basis of telemetry in China is channels of Central Television (CCTV), that broadcast a total of more than 170 hours. The first program  of the country is  a universal channel that stands above all information and current affairs programs. The daily volume of broadcasting is 18 hours. It transfers to the topic of the economy and social education , that is why priorities are given to the second program, broadcasting 16 hours a day. The third program is a musical theater. The leading role in this play art is entertainment programs for traditional Chinese themes. Fourth one is the international channel broadcasting around the clock. Recently, much attention is given to television programs that promote the economic success of China, the country's unity, condemning all forms of separatism. So, in 2008, to film the television series "for the Peaceful Liberation of Tibet" by Chinese troops half a century ago, and today the "happy life of Tibetans," 15 million Yuan was allocated. The abundance of channels and variety of genres gear allows Chinese viewers to choose what interests them and this is the main difference with the time of my friend’s grandmother’s time. Successful television series appeared on the historical and the contemporary themes, which had repeatedly been noted in various TV competitions abroad and purchased for display in several countries. Not just great television like Central or Shanghai was created, but many provincial ones were also started in a number of cities in China. In 2008, one of the biggest festivals in the city of Guangzhou was attended by about 2,500 representatives of TV stations and other organizations associated with the production and broadcasting of programs.

List of Questions

  1. It is known that television was not so widely developed when you were a teenager. Could you be so kind remember when the first television appeared in your family and how did the life change from that time?
  2. Do you remember those years of the birth of the National Television of China (1958, 1966.)?  What features of television were remarkable for ordinary people and how did television look like at that time? What programs were at the priority that period?
  3. It is known that during the "Cultural Revolution" (1967, 1976) there were lots of difficulties of TV. What do you like in the television channel that time and what not?
  4. In your opinion, how the television had changed and what impact it had made on the whole generation?

 

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Interview with (Name)

-  It is known that television was not so widely developed when you were a teenager. Could you be so kind remember when the first television appeared in your family and how did the life change from that time?

-  My family was lucky to have television at that time. I must say that not all people had this magic box that opened a door to the world at home. My parents were great fans of a popular program, ‘Focus ‘with Jiao Dian Fang Tan. Think it had influence on politics and society in China. My mother and sisters liked to watch serials that from 1958 to 1966 numbered more than ten hundred. In fact, the first series were televised live; their shape was similar to the show, not the movie. This time, when the whole family was sitting in front of TV, watching something was great.

-  Do you remember those years of the birth of the National Television of China (1958, 1966.)?  What features of television were remarkable for ordinary people and how did television look like at that time? What programs were at the priority that period?

-  On May 1, 1958, the first Chinese TV station - Beijing was established, and in October of the same year, a second TV station – Shanghai began to work. I remember this because all newspapers published about this affair. TV news of the initial period was very simple. Its audience was members of the Communist Party, including the leaders of China. When the first TV appeared at our home, TV

movie filled in about  75%, and the performances about 15% of the program time.

At that time there were only a few dozen TV sets, most of which were in the house in government, provided directly by the broadcaster. The day program schedule (and it was in black and white broadcast) was as follows.

  1. At 19:00 my parents were watching interview with the pace of industrial production and the head of an agricultural cooperative of May Day celebrations.
  2. Than we watched documentary, calling young people to work in the village. We  were obliged to watch this because in our educational establishments it was like a home assignment./
  3. Nearly at 19:25 it was possible to listen to a recitation of poems commemorating the beginning of the "great leap forward" in the economy.
  4. Then, was the most interesting - National Classical Ballet: plays "Four Lebedenko" and "Shepherd and country girl." Eve – each day was the same.
  5. The thing we appreciated a lot was Soviet scientific and educational film "Television", that was at 8 o’clock in the evening.

I remember this very well, as every evening we watched everything that was broadcasted on TV.

-  It is known that during the "Cultural Revolution" (1967, 1976) there were lots of difficulties of TV. What do you like in the television channel that time and what not?

-  At the beginning of a "culture revolution" Beijing TV station (both center) published "Rules of the cultural propaganda of the socialist revolution," which contained the following requirements: broadcast daily on the progress of the "Cultural Revolution" and an overview of its most important events; create (May 15, 1966) a special section of "propaganda of Mao Zedong to combat counter-revolution", which should be prepared by the social and educational program; shoot TV documentaries about the "Cultural Revolution"; organize students and pupils to participate in the programs, criticizing the counter-revolutionaries; strengthen the propaganda of the main provisions of the teachings of Mao Zedong. So, during that period we seldom watched TV, as there was no possibility to choose what to watch, all was the same – Revolution and again Revolution.

-  In your opinion, how the television had changed and what impact it had made on the whole generation?

- The place of the national television in the electronic media has increased dramatically over the years; TV is an integral part of Chinese life. TV contributed largely to shaping the worldview of a whole generation in China. During each period, the television authorities tried to impose their beliefs and used television with this purpose. Today it is already independent and shares the information that the audience can already get themselves. A great number of educational and entertainment programs affect the intellectual wealth of the nation and young people today are much more educated thanks to television. In (name)’s time television was a novelty, and there was no such access. With the advent of television, people have learned to think critically and make sense of what is happening.

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