Gary Bauer of the Family Research Council and America?s Renewal has expressed shock that CNN decided not to run his ad criticizing President Clinton?s forthcoming visit to Communist China. Other networks, including MSNBC, Fox and CNBC, ran the ad. Bauer has suggested that business dealings between China and Time Warner, CNN?s parent company, explain the decision.
That certainly may be the case. But the truth is that CNN?s business dealings with China go back a long way. One of the best sources of information on this topic is the book, CNN: Making News in the Global Market, by Don Flournoy and Robert Stewart, based on interviews with top CNN officials. They point out that CNN covered the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989, when pro-democracy demonstrators were murdered by Communist Chinese authorities. But despite the fact that such coverage undoubtedly irritated Chinese government authorities, they say that CNN “is now doing business in China” and China Central Television has become a “valued customer” of Ted Turner?s networks, CNN and TBS.
They note, “Although China has banned satellite reception of foreign programs for its citizens, Chinese officials have been willing to allow CCTV [China Central Television] to receive Turner programs and selectively redistribute them within the country.” The implications of this statement are profound. It means that Chinese officials do not find much of Turner?s programming to be offensive. But that?s not all. The book says that Turner and China television “have formed a number of commercial ventures,” including a deal that allows the CNN international network to be distributed to 50,000 hotel rooms throughout China. This book adds, “The relationship with China may expand beyond news to include entertainment in the coming years…Turner already distributes four hours a day of Cartoon Network programing to half a dozen provincial cable systems in China.” A top official of CNN is quoted as saying that as CNN becomes part of Time Warner, with even more assets, “the relationship will come to include those areas as well.”
That book was written before that deal with Time Warner was consummated. Now that CNN is part of Time Warner, the recent summit meeting between Time Warner CEO Gerald Levin and Chinese President Jiang Zemin takes on more significance. This meeting occurred in January of this year and reportedly included a plea by the dictator that Time Warner “portray China in a positive way in the United States.” Time Warner has dealings with China in videos, music, movies and television.
The suppression of the Bauer ad on China is an extremely worrisome development. It suggests that a foreign government is using a major American media company for propaganda purposes. Unfortunately, this is an old story as it concerns CNN. During the Persian Gulf War, CNN became notorious for airing Iraqi government propaganda. CNN?s reporter on the scene, Peter Arnett, became known as “Baghdad Pete.”
CNN?s pro-Clinton reporting had caused some observers to comment that CNN meant Clinton News Network. In foreign affairs, CNN may now be known as the China Television Network. Its coverage of China may become virtually indistinguishable from the official television arm of the Chinese regime.