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Media Moguls Gather in Shanghai to Talk Reform
While China's massive media industry offers great opportunities to both domestic and foreign investors, government and industry leaders must continue to push market reforms on the industry to secure its long-term growth, officials said yesterday at the opening of the Shanghai Media Forum.

More than 100 party and government officials as well as industry chiefs from home and abroad are attending the three-day forum to discuss the future of China's media industry following the country's entry into the World Trade Organization.

Several leaders and media representatives delivered speeches at the forum yesterday.

"Chinese media operators are enjoying more opportunities and freedom to perform and evaluate themselves under a global environment after the country's WTO accession," said Zhao Qizheng, director of the State Council's Information Office.

As one of the world's biggest media markets, China is home to 900 million TV viewers and 54.4 million internet users. The country runs more than 3,100 TV stations and publishes 2,100 newspapers, 8,800 magazines as well as 150,000 books annually.

Advertising income has maintained an average 21.38 percent annual growth rate over the past five years, with the figure reaching 92 billion yuan (US$11.1 billion) last year, according to research firm AC Nielsen.

"But equally, media operators here are feeling more pressure, especially when the market is gradually opened to overseas investment," said Zhao. "Our problems include limited investment, lower management level and the lack of talented managers and new ideas."

As part of its WTO commitment, China has allowed a limited distribution of foreign-produced TV programs in the country's southern Guangdong Province starting early this year.

The country also increased the number of foreign movies it imports every year to 20.

To date, America Online Time Warner Inc., News Corp., Bertelsmann AG and Vivendi Universal have all entered the Chinese market.

Jean-Louis Diefenbacher, chairman and chief executive officer of Vivendi Universal Asia-Pacific Ltd, Hong Kong, suggested Chinese media groups adopt appropriate organization planning.

"Such planning should be based on inter-institutional understanding, creation of special management and operational bodies and an interaction between public and private players in project management and execution," Diefenbacher said.

He also revealed that Vivendi is now in discussions with Chinese authorities for the launch of two projects on the Chinese mainland, including a theme park in Shanghai.

During yesterday's question-and-answer sessions of the forum, attendants also discussed issues like China's future introduction of content industry and multi-media investment.

(Eastday.com, December 6, 2002)

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