Xin Wen Lian Bo

Where you find read or watch your news can be a critical influence on how you think about life. what happens when a country sits down and watches the same news program every night for their entire life?

1116_whats-the-deal-withJust imagine: 30 years ago, a TV was a luxury item for families and China Central Television (CCTV) was one of just three channels you could receive. From these few offers, one program was adored with such vigor and perhaps even watched with honor.

For many years, the daily news program, Xinwen Liaobo, has loyally kept people up to date with all the stories and ideas the state needed to convey. The familiar title music, which for nearly four decades has run in the background of so many family dinners, will be forever nostalgic for anyone who has ever watched. It is the oldest show in China’s television history and certainly one of the most watched news programs in the world today.

Broadcasting began on January 1, 1978, Xinwen Lianbo is still mandatorily shown simultaneously on all provincial televisions and some local channels to ensure high TV ratings. Even urban cable viewers still see half of their channels carrying the program. In the rural areas, the show occupies all available channels.

A comment made by Professor Zhan Jiang of China Youth University for Political Sciences summed up the 30-minute newscast as three, ten-minute thematic blocks: the leaders are busy, the motherland is developing rapidly and other countries are in chaos.

The Chinese name “Xinwen” means news and “Lianbo” refers to joint broadcast, or simulcast, which demonstrates the fact that all the materials are provided by provincial and civic TV stations from all over the country.

As the party and the state’s mouthpiece, it mainly focuses on political content like party announcements, government meetings and leaders’ activities. Dubbed the “wind vane” of Chinese politics, it also signals changes and continuities in policy and personnel.

The priority of the news contents has always been: domestic news first, foreign news second. However, in the history of Xinwen Lianbo, two exceptional, sad accidents in the United States of America broke this steady rule. On January 28, 1986, the program unprecedentedly reported on the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster as the headline, prior to all other news. On December 15, 2012, a report on the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting with 28 deaths also preceded all other news.

Despite its popularity, the presenters are criticized as expressionless and dull. In 2013, the host, Kang Hui, elaborated further on the idea while guest appearing on the show A Date with Luyu. He explained that if a host simply wants a trim, it’s no problem, but if a hairstyle changed enough to make the person look different, then it would need prior permission.

For some time, the program has been criticized for being too rigid, serious and boring. The lines for the same kind of contents will probably stay the same forever. The same adjectives are always applied to the same kinds of events.

For example, when talking about meetings, it must be a grand meeting; a speech must be important; a visit must be kind; an achievement must be tremendous; an applause must be enthusiastic; a leader group must be united and so forth.

A comment made by Professor Zhan Jiang of China Youth University for Political Sciences summed up the 30-minute newscast as three, ten-minute thematic blocks: the leaders are busy, the motherland is developing rapidly and other countries are in chaos.

However, Xinwen Lianbo still continues to be one of the most popular programs on CCTV. Real estate senior executive Xiu Fangzhou is one of its fans.

“With so many instant news apps and websites available right now, Xinwen Lianbo is certainly not as current as others,” he said. “What I care about is the order of the news. What news is adopted by Xinwen Lianbo? What news is in the feature? We can see the major developing direction of the country through it. We businessmen must pay attention to it.”

On the other hand, in Guangdong Province, especially the Cantonese-speaking areas, CCTV is not as heavily watched as it is in the north. This divergence dates back to the very beginning of TV watching came about. Locally then, the only two channels that could be received were from Hong Kong, due to geographical closeness. CCTV hadn’t come to every family in Guangdong until the end of 90s. Plus, with the language barrier, Xinwen Liaobo will probably never be quite as popular in Guangdong.