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This article addresses the ways in which the leading Chinese TV Education provider, CETV, negotiates its role within the parameters of government policy, media industry constraints, media mandates, technological innovation, program reform, public ratings, and increasing audience participation. The author argues that mainly as a result of a radically new horizon of audience expectations, a new kind of participatory citizen is gradually emerging in China. In this process, the article submits, TV programming and program reform can be taken as a reliable indicator of change, since they must balance top-down government directives and bottom-up, popular demand that is measurable in direct audience input and public ratings. The author corroborates this claim through a brief analysis of documentary programs that are being designed more and more to maximize public participation, concluding that while we cannot yet speak of a proper public media sphere in China, there is ample evidence of the training of dialogic and polyphonic interaction that will be able to serve as a formal and practical precondition for more extended public debate. Certainly, the trend toward a participatory style in much recent CETV programming, and at many other TV stations, is unlikely to be reversible. What we are seeing is the birth of a new, TV-trained citizen who will aim to extend the privileges of participation toward contributing to a more fully political forum.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 June 2007

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