photo by Thomas Tribe
SEOUL – BEIJING’S CCTV WILL DROP its normal 30-second broadcast delay on channels covering the Olympic games, according to the official Xinhua News Agency, allowing viewers to see the events in real-time (via Reuters):
China Central Television (CCTV) has always built a 30-second delay into the transmission of live programs to ensure they aired “smoothly and safely,” the report said.
The time lag also gives the government-controlled broadcaster a brief window to stop images of protests or content critical of officials from reaching ordinary viewers.
Broadcasters in the U.S. have occasionally delayed footage in a similar way — especially after the Janet Jackson incident at the superbowl in 2004 — although it could be argued that the practice is largely employed Stateside to protect media from litigation-happy viewers. CCTV’s use of of the delay is more insidious on a couple levels, as it functions mainly to keep citizens in the dark by (sometimes literally) blacking out events and because the broadcaster controls a total of 17 channels.
Despite promising press freedom during the games, Beijing is keeping a close watch over foreign journalists, especially if they don’t procure the proper visa. From a recent NYT blog post:
Less clear is the fate of thousands of freelancers and reporters for local papers, smaller news outlets and niche publications. One freelancer in the U.S. told [the Committee to Protect Journalists] that, having heard of the problems getting a journalist’s visa, she tried to enter the country as a tourist, only to be told that she would have to sign a pledge promising not to write a magazine article about her experiences. Apparently, Chinese immigration agents have learned the power of Google.
This raises questions about the rights of foreign bloggers in the country as well, as there is little doubt that the local government will be keeping a close eye on the Internet; dozens of postings on riots in southwest China last month were apparently blocked by local censors.