Culture

Fairfax And Sky News Have Signed A Deal To Push Chinese State-Run Media Propaganda

OH GOOD.

It’s no secret that Fairfax, one of Australia’s largest traditional media companies, is struggling financially. The company has cut thousands of jobs from its payroll over the last few years in an effort to balance the books, and last month another 30 journalists were let go from the Fairfax Sydney and Melbourne offices.

But things must be really dire if they’re being reduced to running Chinese government propaganda in exchange for cash. A few days ago Fairfax, Sky News Australia and smaller outlets like the UTS Australia-China Relations Institute signed a series of deals agreeing to publish content from Chinese state-owned media outlets. Fairfax newspapers The Sydney Morning HeraldThe Age and the Australian Financial Review will start including China Watch, an eight-page liftout prepared by the state-owned news site China Daily, in its print editions once a month. Sky News agreed to begin sharing video and online content with the People’s Daily, an official Chinese Communist Party newspaper.

Liu Qibao, the head of the Chinese Communist Party’s Central Propaganda Bureau, flew in to personally oversee the signing of the deals and Chinese media outlets reported on them extensively, indicating the seriousness of China’s intentions to spread its ‘message’ in Australia. Fairfax, who reported on the deal and some of its potential implications yesterday, maintain that they’ll be able to keep practicing editorial independence when reporting on China-related news, as China Watch does “not involve the news or editorial departments” of the Australian newspapers in which it runs.

But a media company with the tagline ‘Independent. Always’ carrying what is essentially propaganda for the Chinese state is bound to run into trouble sooner or later. An anonymous former China Daily reporter has written for Crikey today on the censorship and “polishing” that went on at the propaganda organ, while the ABC’s Chinese website has bowed to the country’s excessive censorship laws.

Fairfax papers carried the first edition of China Watch on Friday, but they’ve been running similar content since at least November last year, when a full-page paid “news” article talking up Chinese President Xi Jinping appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald.

With Fairfax and other domestic news outlets in an ever-weakening financial position, the power China can wield over what does and doesn’t get reported on — the Chinese government’s rampant human rights abuses, for example, or the staggering levels of corruption within the ruling Communist Party — will only get stronger as a result of deals like this. Next time you’re reading an article about China in some way, make sure you check where it came from.

Feature image via China Daily.