| BEIJING, July 27
BEIJING, July 27 China's campaign to stamp out
corruption has emboldened the country's normally docile state
media to push the barriers in exposing corporate wrongdoing.
While it's still off-limits to delve too deeply into what
government leaders and powerful institutions may be up to,
recent 'undercover' state TV reports accusing state-owned Bank
of China of aiding money laundering and a U.S.-owned
food supplier of safety violations suggest the media are more
ready to run critical reports.
China's central bank said earlier this month it was
investigating allegations by state broadcaster China Central
Television (CCTV) that Bank of China offers a service to help
Chinese move more of their cash offshore than is allowed.
Bank of China, the country's fourth largest
lender, has denied the allegations.
"Part of the reason the report went forward was because of
the anti-corruption campaign," said a CCTV network employee. "It
isn't like corruption never existed before, but now there's a
bit more room to report on it."
Five current and former CCTV employees told Reuters that
while the network had run critical reports on state-owned
enterprises before, it was unusual to target a major entity such
as Bank of China. All asked not to be named because of the
sensitivity of the matter. CCTV could not be reached for
"The Bank of China investigative reporting by CCTV is
definitely part of the government-wide push to clamp down on
corruption and related activities," another CCTV insider said,
adding that Chinese-language TV channels were putting more
resources into chasing investigative stories.
Foreign companies operating in China, and their local
suppliers, are also in state-media's crosshairs.
A documentary last week by Shanghai government-owned Dragon
TV accused food supplier Shanghai Husi Food, owned by
Illinois-based OSI Group, of mixing expired meat with fresh
produce, triggering a food safety scandal that has since spread
to Hong Kong and Japan.
Several foreign fast-food brands, including McDonald's Corp
, pulled the company's products from their outlets and
switched suppliers. Regulators in Shanghai said
Husi forged production dates on smoked beef patties and sold
them after they had expired.
Late on Saturday, OSI said on its website it was withdrawing
all products made by its Shanghai Husi business, and was
carrying out an internal investigation into senior management
that could end in legal action against those responsible.
"Reports on food safety have a broad impact and the (Dragon
TV) investigative report was totally on the mark," said Zhang
Zhi'an, a journalism professor at Sun Yat Sen University in
Guangzhou. "There have been more and more reports on food
A worker at an employment agency near the Shanghai Husi
factory said an undercover TV reporter had come in seeking a job
at the plant. "The reporter said he was from Sichuan (province),
and wanted to enter the factory," the worker said. "He looked
honest to me."
The reporter could not be reached for comment, and Dragon TV
has declined to comment on the making of the programme.
State media sources interviewed by Reuters said they knew of
no explicit edict from Beijing to report on corporate wrongdoing
- but that such investigative stories fit with the
anti-corruption drive and generated strong viewing numbers.
"The Bank of China story could be done in part because of
the wider political environment," the first CCTV source said.
State media often avoid reporting on powerful state-owned
companies because of their political ties, media insiders said.
It would have been easy for Bank of China to pressure CCTV to
kill the story if it knew beforehand that it was to be aired,
said a person with direct knowledge of CCTV's editorial
"In China, if you contact the subject of your report before
publishing, they will almost certainly use administrative means
to suppress the report," the person said. "If it does come out,
they can also use connections to get the report 'harmonised',"
he added, using a colloquialism for online censorship.
But China's state media is far from being independent or
filling a genuine watchdog role, media experts said. By and
large, it only reports on important corruption cases to the
extent that the government itself allows them to become public.
"Reporting on local and foreign companies is all well and
good - as long as it doesn't disturb those in the government
with money and power," said Zhan Jiang, a journalism professor
at the Beijing Foreign Studies University.
(Additional reporting by Samuel Shen and Brenda Goh in SHANGHAI
and Farah Master in HONG KONG; Editing by Ian Geoghegan)