Shanghai Media plans English news channel in China

SHANGHAI, Sept 18 Tue Sep 18, 2007 2:03am EDT

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SHANGHAI, Sept 18 (Reuters) - Shanghai Media Group, China's second-largest media group by revenue, plans to launch a 24-hour English TV news channel in China this year as it seeks to expand to reach a global audience.

Shanghai Media has been in talks with regulators in charge of the media and culture sectors for at least one year and is likely to win approval for launching the new channel by the end of the year, government and industry sources familar with the situation said.

Shanghai Media's plan has already won strong support from the Shanghai city government, which owns the firm, and is now subject to approval from top regulators in Beijing, they said.

If successful, it would become China's second 24-hour TV channel to be broadcast nationwide and completely in English.

China Central Television, Shanghai Media's bigger rival and controlled by the central government, now operates an international channel in English which targets a foreign audience.

Shanghai Media also aims to broadcast the planned English news channel to several foreign countries in Asia, Europe and North America through satellite transmission or cooperation with local broadcasters, the sources said.

"Shanghai Media has been lobbying Beijing very hard and now they feel very hopeful, partly because Shanghai will host the World Expo soon," said one of the sources, who declined to be identified.

"Shanghai needs an English-language TV channel to serve the increasing number of expatriates living and working in the city and you can imagine how many foreigners will travel to Shanghai during the World Expo in 2010," the source added.

Shanghai Media declined to comment.

FOREIGN COOPERATION

The English news channel is also expected to bring in advertising revenue from global brands that want to reach an English-speaking audience, the sources said.

Shanghai Media currently operates about 20 television and radio channels, including 24-hour Chinese-language news and entertainment broadcaster Dragon TV, which can be accessed by audiences outside China through satellite services.

"Dragon TV targets a well-educated Chinese-speaking audience, including overseas Chinese who live outside China," said another of the sources. "The new English channel can cover a larger audience in the global markets."

Although it has yet to receive final regulatory approval, Shanghai Media has already begun hiring English-speaking presenters, editors and reporters, including foreigners, for the new service, the sources said.

Shanghai Media, whose existing broadcast channels already have content partnerships with foreign firms such as CNBC, owned by General Electric Co (GE.N), and the Discovery Channel, part-owned by Discovery Holding Co. (DISCA.OQ), is in talks with other foreign financial and entertainment media firms for cooperation with its new English channel.

However, equity deals with foreign firms are unlikely, due to Beijing's tight control of the domestic media sector.

News Corp NWSa.N, Time Warner Inc (TWX.N) and Viacom Inc VIAb.N have English-language TV channels in China launched over the last few years, but each has been limited to mass-broadcasting rights in south China's affluent Guangdong province, bordering Hong Kong.

The Walt Disney Co (DIS.N) applied for its own limited broadcasting rights about four years ago but has yet to receive permission for a Chinese version of the Disney channel.

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