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AOL Time Warner breaks into China

The deal signals an ongoing effort from Beijing to open up the media to international players
The deal signals an ongoing effort from Beijing to open up the media to international players  

HONG KONG, China (CNN) -- The parent company of CNN has signed a deal with the Chinese government that grants it broadcast rights in southern China.

In return, several Time Warner cable systems in America will carry China's state-run English news and information channel.

This is the first deal of its kind that grants reciprocal rights to both countries, and is also the first time that one of China's official channels is airing 24 hours in the United States.

At present there are 22 approved international networks broadcasting in China -- including CNN, CNBC and Phoenix Satellite television -- but their broadcasts are limited to a number of hotels and expatriate residential areas.

At a glance: China

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The distribution deal comes shortly after Phoenix Chinese Channel -- a Chinese-language channel delivered by Star Television -- was allowed to officially broadcast to viewers in the Pearl Delta region in Guangdong.

China retains strict control over its media, a fact highlighted by Beijing's move to reimpose bans on several overseas websites.

The government lifted the bans ahead of the annual APEC forum held in Shanghai last week.

But international news sites, including CNN, the BBC and Reuters news agency are once again no longer accessible in China.

'First time'

Under the deal, Time Warner's 24-hour mandarin language channel CETV has broadcast rights in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong.

In return for that right, China's state-run English news channel China Central Television (CCTV-9) will be carried on several Time Warner cable systems in the United States.

This move comes as Beijing moves to open up its market as well as spread its reach abroad ahead of its accession to the World Trade Organization.

"This is the first time for a foreign TV institution to be granted cable TV carriage rights in mainland China," Xu Guang Chun, Director of China's State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (SARFT), said in a press release.

Under the agreement CETV will be carried on Guangdong cable systems, beginning January 2002.

Xu said the deal was also the first U.S.-Sino agreement signed after the APEC forum in Shanghai.

"It is a concrete action, which echoes the spirit of APEC and is firmly supported by all parties involved," he said, adding that it was a significant step towards cooperating in the future.

CCTV was established in 1958, and is the national television station of the People's Republic of China, running 11 channels reaching one billion viewers.

Time Warner is a wholly owned subsidiary of AOL Time Warner, the parent company of CNN.


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