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China to Expand, Improve TV Service in Rural Areas
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China will launch a new round of efforts to provide and improve TV broadcasting services for people in rural areas, in an effort to help villagers gain better TV signal quality and wider channels.


"This is the most important mission for our broadcasting business and we should all put it on the top of our agenda," Zhang Haitao, vice minister of the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (SARFT), was quoted by China Daily as saying.


China's central government has issued the 11th Five-year Guidelines for 2006-2010 and narrowing the gap between urban and rural regions has become a top priority. Providing public services such as broadcasting and telecommunication is one of the major tasks.


China already has a TV broadcasting penetration rate of 95 percent, and the rate for radio service is also about the same figure, but there are still 60 million families in remote areas with no access to either.


The central government initiated the Tibet- Xinjiang Project in 2000, which extended TV and radio broadcasting services to a total of eight provinces and autonomous regions in west China. About 7.6 billion yuan (US$940 million) has so far been spent on the project.


In 2005 alone, China invested 800 million yuan (US$99 million) to help people in 86,000 villages in underdeveloped regions to watch TV.


However, for many people with access to TV or radio signals, they can only watch one or two channels with poor signal quality.


The central government wants to launch a new round of the Cuncuntong Project (the project of providing TV and radio services for villages) this year to let more people have access to broadcasting with good quality.


As many as 42 million people in more than 300,000 villages are expected to benefit from the project.


Although the amount of the investment has not been decided, it is estimated that tens of billions of yuan will be needed, based on previous scales, according to Zhang.


(Xinhua News Agency March 21, 2006)


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