(FT) Shares in Chinese media companies jumped on Tuesday after President Xi Jinping announced plans to build several new media groups.
The statement, which contained few details, appeared to presage a restructuring of China’s media landscape, which has been shaken in recent months by a purge of senior figures at CCTV, the official broadcaster. The government has also stepped up pressure on internet companies over the past year in an effort to control public opinion.
The new media groups must be “strong, influential and credible”, Mr Xi said in a meeting with senior officials on Monday. He called for the state to “integrate traditional and new media to diversify its communication system”, according to Xinhua, the official wire service.
Song Jiangwu, dean of the school of journalism at China University of Politics and Law, said Mr Xi’s remarks appeared to indicate new thinking among China’s leadership about managing its public message.
“The remarks are a sign that senior officials in the Communist party are concerned about the future,” he said. “They are concerned about the influence of traditional media forms and their ability to communicate.”
The main beneficiaries of the announcement, at least judging by surging stock prices, were People.cn, the website operated by the Communist party mouthpiece the People’s Daily, Shanghai Xinhua Media Co and Zhejiang Daily media group.
All three were trading up almost 10 per cent – the Shanghai Stock Exchange’s daily limit – by early afternoon on Tuesday. However, Mr Song said he doubted the stock prices reflected “any real information or leaks”, and said they were probably just speculation and market hype.
“No one has seen the specific plans behind Xi’s remarks,” he said. “We can only know for sure that this will mean that central government will locate special funds to traditional and central government-controlled news agencies for media integration projects.”
Mr Xi’s plans follow a shake-up of both new and traditional media in China. Since June, CCTV, the state television broadcast company, has been reeling after roughly a dozen senior editors and journalists were detained by authorities as part of a corruption investigation. The episode has bruised CCTV’s reputation but few believe it will lose its privileged role.
Meanwhile, social media and chat websites have faced a crackdown. Measures announced this month have tightened rules on instant messaging apps preventing bloggers from posting “news” without special permission.
Social media and Twitter-like websites such as Sina Weibo, which have become an alternative to the news on breaking stories, have faced a crackdown on “rumour-mongering” for the past year.
Plans for new media groups remained vague. “Integration should be supported by technology and follow the rules of news communication and laws governing the development of new media,” Xinhua reported Mr Xi as saying.