Example of Beijing in industrial self-discipline - research of Beijing Association of Online Media

By Chen Hua
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail China.org.cn, September 21, 2016
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In recent years, the internet media industry has been engaged in much practice of self-discipline under the leadership of relevant authorities such as the Ministry of Industry and Informatization, the State Council Information Office, the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television, and the General Administration of Press and Publication. Standing out from all others, the Beijing Association of Online Media (BAOM) (now renamed as the Beijing Internet Association), established on Sep.9 2004, is the first local internet media group practicing self-discipline, which is a good example to the rest of the country, reflecting the direction of reform for mass organizations.

When the BAOM was set up, all leading positions including chairman, vice chairman and secretary-general were taken by people from government departments. However, on Dec. 25, 2007, at the 2nd representative assembly, all these office-holders had stepped down. The position of chairman was taken by an experienced internet media researcher.

This was a significant symbol in organizational reform. According to modern social science, industrial self-discipline organizations should be non-profit ones with "public responsibility and supervisory mechanism," and should be relatively independent. However, internet media organizations in China have a dual nature of being both governmental and non-governmental. With such a conflict in roles, they obviously needed reform. In 2008, Liu Qi, secretary of the CPC Beijing Municipal Committee, stressed the functions of government and social organization should be separated. The government should provide policies and laws while social organizations should work in accordance with the law instead of relying on government.

The important thing is to establish a legal guarantee. Without this, moral principles are weak and too feeble to provide proper support. The purpose of social organizational reform is not to weaken the government's legal administration; instead, it is to establish a more forceful interaction between the law and self-discipline. On Sep.25, 2005, the State Council Information Office and the Ministry of Information Industry issued "Administrative Regulations on Internet News and Information Services," stipulating that internet news and information service providers should come under public supervision. The State Council Information Office should publicize its report website including telephone numbers to receive reports from the public and handle them according to the law. Those reports involving the responsibilities of other departments should be transferred to them for handling. This defined the legal guarantee for industrial self-discipline.

An important step was to build a complete supervision and administrative system. The BAOM set up a news and information review panel and a mechanism of internet supervision volunteers, the "Mom Jury" and a self-discipline commissioner, which were the first of their kind in Chinese mainland.

The news and information review panel was established on Apr. 13, 2006. The next day, a commentator writing in the Beijing News said: "This is a significant step China's internet media has taken towards rational development. It is also a significant step of China's construction of an enterprise culture." In 2007, the State Council Information Office promoted this model throughout the country.

In May, 2006, the BAOM recruited 200 internet supervison volunteers for the first time. By means of establishing social supervision in which everyone could participate, illegal and harmful information was found in a timely way, thus promoting industrial self-discipline.

In 2010, the "Mom Jury" was set up, expanding the appraisal mechanism to include youth protection work. With "children's best benefits and priority" as its basic principle, the "jury" has the right of making suggestions on dealing with information considered harmful for youth's development. It also has the right to demand feedback on the results.

The "internal media supervisor," as the name suggests, is a supervision agency established within the media.

On Aug. 27, 2010, the BAOM sponsored a self-discipline commissioner in internet media. Eight websites providing microblog services including Sina, Sohu and Netease promised to put the arrangement into practice. Self-disciplinary commissioners are directly responsible for their respective media. At the same time, their work is independent from the organization's internal editing and supervision procedures.

As part of follow-up activities, work has been undertaken to create an industrial brand. By 2010, the BAOM had already created brand-name activities by organizing seven "red hometown" tours (visits to old revolutionary base areas)for Beijing internet media, six elitist football matches among Chinese internet media, three internet media Spring Festival celebrations and one internet Spring Festival.

The BAOM "red hometown" tour, focusing on Jinggangshan in 2004, Yanan in 2005, Zunyi in 2006, Baise in 2007, Yunling in 2008, Shaoshan in 2009 and Chongqing in 2010, has become a well-recognized self-education activity. Upon conclusion of the tour to Chongqing on Jun. 3, 2010, the Chongqing channel of Xinhuanet said in its review of the seven tours that, "the internet, as a new industry, is forming its own culture. It can be seen from the 'red hometown' tours that the nature and contents of this culture is in line with mainstream culture. New technologies bring about much strength, which, in turn works to spread mainstream culture. Its promotion is even more vital and creative than that of traditional culture."

The elitists' football match, which has been held six times, brought recognition for the BAOM through the "best amateur match organizer award." And the internet Spring Festival celebration, which has been held three times, has become something to be welcomed.

During the Spring Festival in 2010, the BAOM, together with nine other websites including Sohu, Netease, Tome, Sina and Baidu, planned a large-scaled folk-theme activity. From Dec.23 to 30 of the Chinese lunar calendar, eight websites held eight "Folk Theme Day" activities, which received thousands of works and 15.48 million greeting messages from web users in both China and other countries including Japan, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Unites States, Canada, Singapore and Australia. The eight websites registered more than 260 million clicks during the period. It was a real practice of inheriting excellence of the traditional Chinese culture by means of new media.

The six years of the BAOM has also been a time when China's internet media has achieved rapid development. The birth of the Beijing example is the necessary result of rapid industrial development. On Feb. 5, 2009, the BAOM was awarded the title of "advanced collective among social organizations in Beijing" for its positive contributions to the economic and social development of Beijing and especially for its significant role in organizing the Olympic Games and earthquake relief work.

Self-discipline is becoming a conscious action of the internet industry as a whole in providing more and better spiritual and cultural products. At the same time, it is also becoming a significant way of resolving contradictions between rapid development and the incommensurate administrative mechanism. In Aug., 2010, leaders of State internet-supervisory departments expressed on many occasions the hope for industrial self-discipline. On Aug.17, the Deputy Director of the State Council Information Office, Qian Xiaoqian, said in his speech at the 2010 Internet Assembly of China that internet enterprises should accept social supervision and abide by the law. The same day, Vice-Minister of Industry and Informatization Xi Guohua hoped various agencies including the Internet Society of China would continue to strengthen self-discipline, guide internet enterprises to obey the laws and regulations and work together to create healthy and positive environment.

The example of Beijing, with self-discipline, has followed the general way of international media. It is also product of China's internet media development in line with the national conditions. It is hoped it can contribute to further overall development.

The author is an associate researcher of Beijing Internet Information office

The article was translated by Li Bin, and was firstly published in Chinese in News & Writing, 11th Edition, 2010.

Opinion articles reflect the views of their authors, not necessarily those of China.org.cn.


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