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Chinese state TV to launch American service

BEIJING -- Chinese state broadcaster CCTV is launching its American service this week as part of a major overseas expansion drive aimed at boosting China's international influence.

The network said Wednesday that Washington-based CCTV America will eventually offer four hours of programming daily. It said content will be produced by about 100 journalists working out of 15 bureaus in North and South America.

CCTV America's initial lineup will feature a business and finance program, Biz Asia America, a panel show called “The Heat,” and a magazine program, “Americas Now,” the network said. It will target an audience of more than 100 million in 120 countries, competing for viewers with the likes of BBC, CNN, and Qatar's Al-Jazeera.

The network is also opening a studio in Nairobi, Kenya, and hiring scores of new journalists and technical staff around the globe.

The expansion aims to counter negative images of China, especially over controversial issues such as human rights, one-party communist rule, and Beijing's policies in the restive western regions of Xinjiang and Tibet.

While it enjoys top-level access to Chinese officialdom, heavy state control tightly restricts CCTV's reporting about China, leading critics to question what special advantages it can offer over other global networks.

“We consider accuracy, objectivity, truthfulness, and public accountability more important than anything else. We will strive to provide good journalism, high quality television, and alternative views,” CCTV America Director General Ma Jing was quoted as saying in the statement.

Among those joining the new venture are ex-Bloomberg Television anchor Phillip Yin, former “60 Minutes” producer Barbara Dury, and veteran BBC correspondent Michael Voss, based in Havana, Cuba. BBC veterans will also join the staff in the Washington bureau, along with former employees of CNN, NBC, CBS, and Fox News.

The television arm of China's official Xinhua News Agency is also expanding overseas and on Wednesday listed on the Hong Kong stock exchange as a way to raise funds. The station, now known as CNC, launched Chinese and English-language channels in 2010, beaming them to near nearly 60 countries, including the U.S., Britain, Canada, New Zealand and Thailand, the company said.

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In this photo taken on Jan. 20 and released by China's Xinhua News Agency, senior Communist Party members pose for photos with performers and crew members of China Central Television's (CCTV's) Lunar New Year gala program during their rehearsal in Beijing. (AP)

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