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CCTV’s Greatest Hits

Rare is the day that CCTV contains actual news about China, the editorial staff at the station routinely concoct fake stories, use fake footage (sometimes culled from Hollywood movies) and use fake people to keep everyone happy and safe in the knowledge that they living in a socialist paradise.  Here’s a run-down of some the worst news gathering not seen since…well…ever, really.

Top Gun

Not happy with the use of actual real news footage, CCTV spliced in a scene of a missile destroying a plane.  The video was posted on the myriad thousand video sharing sites around China, along with various, non-too-complimentary comments.  The Wall Street Journal reported that the video might have actually been part of the promotional materials used by a jet manufacturer.

Taking a leaf from the Chinese Book of Effective PR, a spokesman promptly denied that they used the footage to beef up its advertising.  “It’s impossible and unnecessary for us to do anything like that,” Ding Zhiyong, AVIC’s director of public relations, told China Real Time, “The J-10 is an accomplishment we’re proud of–why would we even need to use ‘Top Gun’ footage?”.  Thankfully, once the tweets had hit the fan in the Chinese blogosphere, no one at CCTV was available for comment because of the Chinese New Year, and the story blew over quite conveniently.

The $12 Apartment

For anyone who has lived in Beijing, the housing market is something that weigh s heavily on the mind.  Contracts are often worth more than the paper they’re hurriedly printed on, landlords greed can often mean that people are thrown out of their houses with a few days to find a new place to live because the landlord is selling the place, and the government is trying to contain a rapidly expanding property bubble.

One of the misguided efforts that the CCP made was to stage an interview with a Beijing resident claiming that the apartment in which she lived had a monthly rent of a mere 77RMB for a princely 45 square meter pad (to compare, this author’s apartment in Chongwenmen is 3300RMB per month for 68 square meters).  Hu Jin Tao replied that the glorious Chinese Communist Party was doing everything it could to help people on low incomes live, well, like they weren’t on a low income, proclaiming “The party and the government pay great attention on improving people’s livelihood. Now we’ve adopted series of measures, and more are expected to come to improve lives of low-income families.”

Internet users were not happy, and soon uncovered a series of photos that showed the esteemed apartment owner, Mrs. Guo and her daughter taking not-so-low-income jollies to places like Shanghai, Dalian and Xiamen.  The broadcast ultimately backfired, deepened the discontent within the Chinese middle classes who have had to cope with increasingly high rents.  The problem got so bad that the government ordered the story and comments to be scrubbed from all discussion forums and social network sites.

Google Porn

The Chinese government is very proud of the fact that it has a clean and harmonious Internet environment.  Yes, in a country of 1.3 billion people, it’s forbidden to look at porn, and of course, the CCP Propaganda Department is anxious not only to establish itself as the thin red line, but also point out that looking at porn on the Internet is worse than eating babies in church, or drowning bag loads of kittens in the Yangtze.  To wit, the CCTV “current affairs show”, Focus Interview, broadcast an interview with a student who was addicted to looking at X-rated imaged on the web.  In a delicious twist, the interviewee pointed out that most of the images were to be found on the Chinese governments favorite search engine, Google.

Chinese netizens – all 300 million of them – were unimpressed and just a little skeptical of the claims.  A little searching around (probably using Google) uncovered the evil plot – Gao Ye, the student being interviewed was actually one of Focus Interviews’s own interns.  The Internet monitors in Beijing promptly added the words “Gao Ye” to their keyword blacklists, which in turn managed to grind the most of the Chinese Internet traffic to a halt since “gao” means “tall” and “ye” means “also”.

BTCC Spring Festival Fire

Ove the Spring Festival in 2009, a fireworks display went out of control and turned the Beijing Television Cultural Center in a massive roman candle that could be seen for miles around.  In the ensuing investigation, it was discovered that officials at CCTV had authorized the display, but hadn’t applied for permits from the local Beijing government, not only that, but they had ignored repeated warnings from the police  that the fireworks would be too powerful and dangerous.  As it turned out the fireworks were too dangerous (who would’ve guessed?) and the resulting inferno raged for 5 hours, killed one firefighter and completely destroyed the $731 million building.

Arrests immediately followed, including the former head of CCTV’s construction bureau, 50-year-old Xu We.  Attempts to clamp down on the news story also followed, resulting in a wave of criticism from Chinese netizens and the international press. In a leaked memo to the New York Times, Beijing authorities had apparently ordered “No photos, no video clips, no in-depth reports…the news should be put on news areas only and the comments posting areas should be closed”.  The reason?  The fire was said to symbolize bad luck for the coming New Year.

James Fallows, of The Atlantic wrote, “that the perils of the fireworks and firecrackers are more than a joke…. that people responsible appear to have been CCTV employees; and that the whole subsequent matter of investigating, publicizing, making sense of, and drawing omens from an unignorable spectacle involving the country’s leading propaganda/communication outlet and the city’s most distinctive new landmark will say a lot about the emotional and political state of China right now.”

Spring Festival Utility Men

And finally, the epic CCTV Spring Festival Gala raised it’s ugly head once again earlier this month, and while it’s becoming less and less popular, and turning into more of three hour infomercial, more fun can be had spotting people in the audience.  While typically, the sponsors of the show will have their CEO’s given the best seats, it’s the “ordinary people” – carefully vetted members of the public and “utility men” that netizens have the most fun with.

Yes, although CCTV has had the bright idea of using actors as fake members of the public, they haven’t really thought the whole thing through, and have used the same actors in the same shows for, er, the past 10 years.  One can only assume that they’ve been hoping that no one will catch on.  The bad news is of course that, well, people caught on.  And so did a lot of western news sources. Chinese netizens helpfully posted screen grabs of the utility men in a series of photos going all the way back to 2001.

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