The Constitution of the People's Republic of China guarantees citizens' freedom of speech and information. With the economic development that started in the 1980s, Chinese media have become more diversified as they extend their reach throughout China through multiple transmission, including satellites, wireless and wired systems. Today, there are over 2,000 newspapers, over 8,000 magazines, 282 radio stations and 374 TV stations in China. By the end of 2004, there were 774 medium- and short-wave radio transmitting and relay stations, and 114.7 million households with access to cable television, covering 94.1 and 95.3 percent of the population, respectively.
Headquartered in Beijing, Xinhua News Agency is China's official news agency, as well as one of the world's major international news agencies with more than 100 branches in Asia-Pacific, the Middle East, Latin America, Africa and other regions. In 2003, its subordinate Xinhua Financial Network Ltd. formed an international alliance with Agence France-Presse (AFP) Finance. Xinhua Financial Network Ltd. purchased the news agencies of AFP Asian Finance in Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, and Singapore and eight other Asian countries and regions, which expanded the coverage of Xinhua News Agency's international network. With its head office also in Beijing, China News Service mainly supplies news to overseas Chinese, foreign citizens of Chinese origin, and compatriots in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, the Macao Special Administrative Region, and Taiwan.
Between 1950 and 2000, the number of Chinese newspapers increased nearly ten-fold. In 2004, over 400 kinds of daily newspapers were published in China, their circulation reaching 80 million, the highest figure of any country in the world. Targeted at different reader groups, newspaper formats are becoming increasingly diverse and colorful. Recent years have seen an important trend of newspaper reorganization. To date, 39 newspaper groups have been established, such as Beijing Daily Newspaper Group, Wenhui Xinmin Associated Newspaper Group and Guangzhou Daily Newspaper Group. In 2003, trans-regional cooperation among the print media became a new trend. New Beijing Newspaper, invested and run by Guangming Daily Newspaper Group and Nanfang Daily Newspaper Group, was the first to receive formal approval from the Chinese government to publish trans-regionally. Also Orient-Observation Weekly came out in Shanghai, its largest shareholder being the Beijing-based Xinhua News Agency.
The Central People's Broadcasting Station, the nation's official radio station, has eight channels, and broadcasts for a total of over 200 hours per day via satellite. Every province, autonomous region and municipality has local broadcasting stations. China Radio International (CRI), the only national overseas broadcasting station, is beamed to all parts of the world in 38 foreign languages, standard Chinese and four Chinese dialects, and broadcasts for a total of over 300 hours every day. It offers various special programs of news, current affairs, comment, entertainment, politics, economy, culture, technology and so on. Currently, CRI ranks third in overseas broadcasting time and languages in the world.
China's television industry has grown into a complete system with high-tech program production, transmission and coverage. China Central Television (CCTV), China's largest and most powerful national television station, has established business relations with more than 250 television organizations in over 130 countries and regions. In conformity with trends in the international television industry, CCTV has made progress in the direction of specialization, introducing two specialized channels -- the News Channel and the Children's Channel in 2003, and the Music Channel in 2004. Altogether there are 3,000 television stations across the country. Large international TV expositions, including the Shanghai Television Festival, Beijing International Television Week, China Radio and Television Exposition and Sichuan Television Festival, are held on a regular basis. Besides judging and conferring awards, these festivals conduct academic exchange and the import and export of TV programs. Shanghai has become the largest television program trading market in Asia.
Since the mid-1990s, the nation's online media have developed rapidly and of China's some 10,000 news media across the country, 2,000 have gone online. Quite a number of famous websites have begun to appear, relying on information flow from the news media, and taking full advantage of the latter's superior news coverage. Experts predict that Internet news media and traditional media will merge in the 21st century into a multi-media news platform with sound, images and text. It is estimated that by the end of 2005, China will have over 50 million Internet-connected computers, and over 200 million users of data, multi-media and the Internet, with about 15 percent of the population having access to the Internet.
Since China entered the World Trade Organization, the trend within China's media industry is to form inter-media and trans-regional media groups operated with multiple patterns so as to meet competition and challenges from powerful overseas media groups. In 2001, the Chinese government put forward a goal of promoting media amalgamation by establishing trans-regional multi-media news groups. It also instituted detailed regulations on media industry fund raising, foreign-funded cooperation and trans-media development. China Radio, Film and Television Group, founded at the end of 2001, integrated the resources of central-level radio, television and film industry plus those of the radio and television, Internet companies into China's biggest and strongest multi-media group covering the fields of television, Internet, publishing, advertising, etc. At the same time Chinese media industry is cooperating with overseas media groups. By 2003, 30 overseas television stations, including "Phoenix Satellite TV," "Bloomberg Finance," "Star Satellite TV," "Eurasian Sports" and "Chinese Entertainment TV" had landed in China with limitations. At the same time, the English language channel of CCTV entered the United States through Fox News Internet under the jurisdiction of the News Group.