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Beijing sets up media watchdog group

2014-09-18 08:54 Global Times Web Editor: Qian Ruisha

Beijing established a media ethics commission on Tuesday, aiming to enhance supervision and self-discipline of Beijing-based media by soliciting reports from the public on media malpractice.

The commission is comprised of 19 members including newspaper executives, reporters, editors and media scholars while its advisory board has 14 members mainly comprised of spokespersons of government organs. Mei Ninghua, chairman of the Beijing Journalists Association, will chair the commission.

Zhai Huisheng, secretary of the Party Leading Group of the All China Journalists Association, said during the launch meeting that the commission will play an effective role in monitoring media companies and enhancing media reliability by accepting public supervision.

Mei said that media malpractice includes false reporting, paid news and vulgar advertisements. The commission will monitor all Beijing-registered media outlets.

The commission has also set up a hotline to receive any media disciplinary complaints.

After receiving complaints, the commission will start an investigation and offer suggestions for punishment. The measures include ordering corrections and a public apology, noting misbehavior and reporting serious violations to disciplinary watchdogs.

However, some media experts voiced doubts about the effectiveness of the commission.

Zhan Jiang, a professor of journalism and communication with Beijing Foreign Studies University, said he is not optimistic about the actual power of the commission because the organization is not fully independent from the government and it has no legal power to discipline media.

"The commission can only give suggestions to media companies who are reported to have committed malpractice; it can't punish them legally and directly," Zhan said.

"Also, it is still unclear what detailed rules and regulations the commission is going to use to supervise the media and make a judgment," Zhan added.

Zhan also pointed out that media malpractice, such as bribery, has been serious for years, which he believes will be a big challenge for the commission to tackle.

Zhang Zhi'an, a professor from the School of Communication and Design at Sun Yat-sen University, hopes the commission could be more transparent, sharing information with the public on its composition and what malpractice media outlets have committed, so as to enhance its positive effect on the media environment.

Earlier this month, several senior executives at 21cbh.com, a business news website run by the 21 Century Business Herald newspaper, were put under investigation under suspicion of extorting hundreds of thousands of yuan from companies.

Police say the website and two public relations firms collaborated to extort money from companies in return for favorable coverage and withholding negative news reports.

If companies refused, the website would purposely publish negative or malicious information about the company, according to police.

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