BEIJING (Reuters) - Chinese state television has begun sacking contract staff after a bogus news report about toxic dumplings that drew international alarm and angered propaganda chiefs, newspapers reported on Monday.
A report made by Beijing TV and shown on China Central Television (CCTV) this month claimed to show a vendor selling steamed dumplings stuffed with chemical-laced cardboard masquerading as pork.
The report brought a crescendo of domestic and international alarm about the country’s lax product safety, with news of bogus food, drugs and other products ranging from seafood and toothpaste to tires.
And it was with both relief and shame that officials announced days later that a Beijing TV contract worker had fabricated the report.
Propaganda officials are now seeking tighter control on the mammoth, multi-channel national broadcaster by sacking masses of contract and informal staff, according to Ta Kung Pao, a Hong Kong paper under mainland control.
A staff member told the paper that after the scandal, the ruling Communist Party’s propaganda department and the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television had demanded that media “carry out resolute self-examination and self-correction”.
“CCTV is following the demand and has begun dismissing employees,” the employee said. “Those with ability can stay, those that aren’t qualified must all be dismissed.”
Reflecting its status as an arm of state, CCTV has a limited number of formal staff positions authorized by the government. But as channels and the chase for ratings and advertising revenue have expanded, the broadcaster has taken on many hundreds of contract and informal staff.
“These irregular staff are huge in number — about as many as there are formal staff,” commented the Yangcheng Evening News, a state-run paper in Guangdong province, which also reported the dismissals.
They now face official wrath over the scandal.
The move was confirmed to Reuters by several employees of the state broadcaster. “People must go even if the number of programs is reduced,” said one, who said the sackings had begun in recent days.
“These media laborers are too sad. They rushed into CCTV full of ideals ... and now they’re being kicked out the door,” said one commentator on a Chinese blog.
But staff were also skeptical about how deep and lasting the cuts would be. One CCTV worker said many dismissed staff were likely to be re-employed because many programs could not be made without them.
The reporter who made the dumpling report, Zi Beijia, and a handful of others have been detained.