Facilitating Public Service Provision: The Emerging Role of Municipal Television News in China

Dan Chen, Elizabethtown College


Despite strict state controls, negative news about local officials is reported in China. Faced with political constraints and the incentive and pressure to earn profits, municipal television news programmes have developed and adopted the life news model (minsheng xinwen), which aims to help citizens solve problems. The production process of this news model has transformed the political role of the broadcast media at the local level. Many life news reports focus on disputes between citizens and local officials. Thus, addressing citizen grievances essentially facilitates public service provision. Based on an ethnographic case study of a municipal television news programme, this article finds that the production process of life news reports can facilitate public service provision by correcting local officials' behaviour, regardless of whether the news reports are eventually broadcast. This unintended role is a result of the power negotiation between local officials and journalists who face immense commercial pressure.