Feature

World Media 2007: Greater China

The People's Republic of China may be undergoing an economic miracle, but it cannot dismiss the international community's concerns about social equality, censorship and human rights.

Ad agency bosses tend to lose all sense of perspective when they contemplate China - which, of course, they do on an increasingly regular basis. You can hardly blame them. They are, after all, only mirroring the behaviour of their multinational clients, who are falling over themselves to stake their claim in what they believe will soon become the world's new powerhouse economy.

Not content with already being the world's largest user of coal, China has now become the second-largest oil consumer after the US. Economic growth is forecast at an average 8 per cent a year for the foreseeable future. That's some momentum.

However, a small but growing band of China sceptics point out that, while China has two stock exchanges and is a member of the World Trade Organisation, its business practices remain, by and large, primitive.

In January 2007, listed Chinese companies were required for the first time to adopt international accounting standards but the majority of Chinese companies face no such inconvenience - and there's a growing worry that figures emanating from the Chinese market, both at the macro and the micro level, might not be entirely accurate.

Then there are other, smaller-scale issues of trust. Take, for instance, the copyright infringements that seem to occur almost on a routine basis. So far this has mainly affected magazine publishers pursuing joint venture projects with holders of Chinese publishing licences (a jealously guarded government fiefdom) but this has implications for all creative companies and brand owners.

Is China really on the verge of a consumer explosion? Not, some observers say, while the fruits of its economic boom are being realised by a tiny percentage of the country's 1.3 billion population. Economic imbalance will be a growing issue.

But, in the end, it's China's political heritage that gives cause for the greatest disquiet. The government's recent announcement that it would lift some of its censorship restrictions for the duration of the 2008 Olympic Games only served to remind many that the country is still run by a Draconian communist regime with a poor record on human rights.

So, perhaps predictably, its media marketplace remains stunted - and it's the severe restrictions that it seeks to impose on internet companies (not least Google) that make China an unlikely candidate for leadership of the world's 21st-century media economy.

ADVERTISING EXPENDITURE
USdollars million at current prices. All years based on US$1 =
Rmb 8.28 *Estimated
Total Newspapers Magazines TV Radio Other
2000 4,820 1,788 138 2,061 192 640
2001 5,174 1,925 145 2,189 230 685
2002 6,193 2,300 186 2,820 267 621
2003 7,736 2,966 298 3,113 312 1,048
2004 8,534 2,816 249 3,558 402 1,510
2005 9,775 3,125 304 4,336 474 1,536
2006 11,378 3,630 375 5,006 569 1,798
2007* 13,256 4,215 451 5,832 663 2,094
2008* 16,251 4,999 515 7,377 813 2,548
2009* 18,606 5,723 590 8,446 930 2,917

Adspend notes 1) Excludes agency income, which comprises regular
commission and income from programme syndication, sports sponsorship,
event marketing, industry training and other sources. 2) Excludes
production costs. 3) Includes classified advertising. 4) Before
discounts.

FACTFILE
HIGHEST CIRCULATING TITLES
Newspaper: China TV Guide (weekly, 5,000,000 copies)
Business magazine: Securities Market Weekly (337,000 copies)
Consumer magazine: Readers (fortnightly, 5,000,000 copies)
TOP TV SHOWS
Most-watched TV programme: Chinese New Year Evening Show
Best new TV format: Super Girl Voice
MAJOR MEASUREMENT TOOLS
Circulation: CMSS
Readership: Publishers' estimates
TV viewing: CSM
MAIN MEDIA OWNERS
Newspapers: Shenzhen Newspaper Group, Guangzhou Daily Newspaper Group
Magazines: State Administration of Press & Publications, China
Interactive Media Group
TV: CCTV

THE LOWDOWN

- Media topic du jour

How best to identify and exploit Olympic Games opportunities.

- Reigning media guru and why

The internet entrepreneur Ma Yun.

- Media mogul to be seen dining with and why

Hongbo Xia, director, CCTV advertising department.

- Car to drive: Mercedes E-Class.

- Phone to carry: Motorola Ming.

- Whatever you do, don't say: What happens if I Google "Tiananmen Square"?

BUZZ MEDIA IDEA OF 2006

The Adidas wrap of the Glass Ball in XuiHui. China is a vital market for sportswear manufacturers, not least because it will host the Olympics next year - and, as befits a country where the ever-changing built environment is arguably its most dynamic medium, this initiative was a big, bold, hi-tech statement in a downtown environment.