US cable chatter from Beijing during the October 2007 Communist Party Congress when the current nine-member Politburo leadership was announced, reveals the Chinese art of harmonising the media. For instance, no tears on national television.
“During the Congress, China Central Television (CCTV) would not show images of people crying, regardless of circumstances,’’ said a cable from the WikiLeaks tranche posted on the NYT website. It quotes a source saying that station managers had banned negative images on screen to follow internal guidelines for upbeat coverage. “Even nature shows depicting animals stalking and killing prey were cut because such scenes were considered ‘inharmonious’.’’
According to official estimates, 807 domestic and 1,135 foreign reporters were given credentials to cover the Congress. And the Party leadership appeared to be pleased with international coverage. “Some contacts said that the Party Congress media strategy of keeping journalists busy with press conferences and junkets (propaganda officials took foreign journalists to visit the newly constructed National Grand Theater and Olympic sites) was effective in managing international coverage.”
Local journalists were reportedly disappointed with severe controls on domestic coverage of the Politburo announcement, including near identical front-pages in newspapers.