News Corp chairman Rupert Murdoch has accused authorities in Beijing of being paranoid after admitting plans to develop his empire in China have "hit a brick wall," the Financial Times reported yesterday.
Murdoch said Chinese authorities were no longer opening up their vast untapped market to international media companies, reversing their stance from a year ago.
The newspaper said Murdoch, who was speaking at a conference in New York organized by former US president Bill Clinton, said the Chinese authorities "were quite paranoid about what gets through."
Murdoch has spent years courting Chinese officials after angering them in 1993 by saying satellite TV posed an "unambiguous threat to totalitarian regimes everywhere."
To appease authorities, News Corp pulled the BBC from its regional programming and its publishing operation canceled plans to put out a book by a former Hong Kong governor that was critical of China's government.
But so far News Corp has only a toehold in China, with a license to operate in Guangdong Province and in exclusive hotels.
Last month, Beijing scuppered plans by the company to expand its broadcasts in China.
A joint venture allowing the media giant to broadcast Channel V and Star TV through the Qinghai Satellite TV Station in northwest China fell foul of regulators, a News Corp executive said then.
The venture had operated for six months and could reach more than 100 million people in the provinces of Qinghai, Liaoning, Xinjiang as well as Chongqing and Beijing municipalities.
The company is also facing investigation into whether it has been illegally selling decoders inside China that allow viewers access to News Corp channels.
At the same conference, Dick Parsons, chairman and chief executive of Time Warner, criticized Internet giant Yahoo's recent decision to pass documents to the Chinese government that led to the conviction of a local journalist, the Financial Times said.
The world's biggest media company, which is also active in China, said the authorities wanted to manage the opening of the country to foreign media at their own pace.
He said he had decided against distributing his AOL Internet business in China because the government wanted to monitor messages sent on the Internet service.
"We made a judgement it wasn't a market we wanted to enter at this time," he said.
Analysts said foreign media firms wanting access to China's growing market for content and programming may have to alter their expectations to conform with China's regulatory environment and market realities.
"[Media companies] have to abdicate [a] certain control to the regulators but this is not new, this has always been the case and this is the cost of doing business here," said Kristian Kender of Beijing-based China Media Monitor Intelligence.
"If you're a company here looking into selling programming or doing co-production, nothing has changed, those businesses are still there," Kender said.