China's State TV Targeted in Anti-Corruption Drive

Some Chinese reporters and editors used to play a limited watchdog role, calling attention to embezzlement and other abuses by lower-level officials, pollution and other problems. Such reporting has largely disappeared over the past six years as authorities tightened controls, including by prohibiting media outlets from sending reporters outside the area where they operate.

Chinese President Xi Jinping, who took power in 2012, has made anti-corruption a hallmark of his administration. However, he has made clear the press is not to play an independent role in revealing abuses. He has increased restrictions on reporters and ordered them to undergo training in Marxism to emphasize the ruling party's control.

The latest corruption crackdown might be the most sweeping ever. Dozens of senior government and party figures and executives of the giant state-owned China National Petroleum Corp. have been detained on corruption charges.

Still, "to clean up the national media, that's almost unprecedented," said Zhan, the journalism professor.

CCTV's hundreds of millions of viewers make it one of China's most influential media outlets. Rights to the daily 10-second advertising slots after its evening news broadcast each night in 2014 sold for a total of 3.5 billion yuan ($570 million).

Rui, the CCTV finance channel's star anchor, rose to prominence as he interviewed world leaders and business magnates.

On his microblogging page, Rui strikes a nationalistic tone and has more than 10 million followers. He became a household name in 2007 as a leading figure in a public campaign that prompted authorities to remove a Starbucks from the grounds of the imperial place in Beijing.

Rui raised eyebrows in 2010 when he stood up at a news conference given by President Barack Obama at a Group of 20 meeting in South Korea and said he could speak for all of Asia.

On Friday night, Rui was abruptly taken away from the studio, moments before he was to anchor the nightly news program, according to the magazine Caixin.

Prosecutors also took away the deputy director of financial news, Li Yong. In late May, their boss, Guo Zhenxi, director of financial news, was detained on suspicion of taking bribes. Three other CCTV employees from the same channel have reportedly been detained.

In a sign of trouble for Rui, the Global Times said his disgrace "has once again sent out strong signals that corruption is not limited to government officials."

When it comes to how to use their public influence, Chinese media "remain immature," the editorial said.

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