China lauds iPhone app that spreads state views

A rising number of Chinese state news outlets are offering iPhone apps

China's film and TV regulator late Tuesday praised the growth of an iPhone application from state broadcaster CCTV as the country looks for new ways to project its political views abroad.

The free iPhone app, one of a growing number from Chinese state-owned news outlets, has gained 500,000 users in the month or so since it went online and is adding 2,000 new users each day, the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television said in a statement on its Web site. The CCTV app has shown "favorable performance" and proven especially popular during broadcasts of major events, such as a high-flown military parade held in Beijing last month, the statement said.

Users of the app could be either in our outside of China, where the iPhone officially went on sale last month, but the regulator said the numbers showed CCTV was growing quickly overseas.

Other Chinese state media have launched iPhone apps in recent weeks as well. The China Daily, the state English paper, has streaming apps for both video and print news. And stories from Xinhua, China's official news agency, can be viewed in an app from U.S. company CNewsCo that also airs content from the U.S. branch of CCTV and from local broadcaster Shanghai Media Group.

The apps are being made for other mobile phones too. CNewsCo offers a version of its app for the BlackBerry, and China Daily recently said it had also made app software for the Symbian, BlackBerry and Windows Mobile platforms.

Apple itself gave the CCTV iPhone app a plug at the handset's official launch event last month. In a speech at the event, Greg Joswiak, Apple's vice president of iPod and iPhone marketing, called the app the first for CCTV on any mobile device as the broadcaster's logo appeared on a big screen behind him.

The government statement also said promotion of the CCTV app on Apple's Web site in China was helpful for its user growth. The Apple site includes the CCTV and China Daily products on a list of recommended apps.

The plugs are likely Apple's first for state-run media in an authoritarian country. In 1984, the iconic American company ran a popular commercial for its new Macintosh computers that said the machines would show users "why 1984 won't be like '1984,' " a reference to the George Orwell book about a society ruled by a mind-controlling regime.

China is investing heavily to expand the overseas reach of its state-owned news outlets, which often air official Chinese political views strongly at odds with mainstream Western views. The Dalai Lama, for instance, is frequently attacked as a dangerous separatist in Chinese state news reports, while the exiled Tibetan figure is seen more as a saintly religious activist in the West. The first section of CCTV's major evening news broadcast is always dry footage of top leaders meeting with officials from other countries or with smiling farmers in rural Chinese areas.

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Owen Fletcher

IDG News Service
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