Academic journal article Quarterly Journal of Chinese Studies

Framing H1N1 Influenza in Chinese TV News

Academic journal article Quarterly Journal of Chinese Studies

Framing H1N1 Influenza in Chinese TV News

Article excerpt

The outbreak of H1N1 influenza (hereafter, H1N1 or H1N1 flu), the global pandemic in Spring 2009 and spread globally through Summer 2010, has illustrated that different parts of the international community may have to face and deal with the same health threat in the increasingly interconnected global village. Originally termed "swine flu," H1N1 first broke out in Mexico in March 2009. In the middle of April, the first case was reported in the United States. Since late April, H1N1 had caused global concern, and incidences of HIN 1 flu had been reported in many countries. By the end of May 2010, 214 countries and territories had reported laboratory-confirmed H1N1 cases, with at least 18,138 deaths (WHO, 2010a). On August 10, 2010, WHO declared that the global pandemic was over, and nevertheless warned that H1N1 virus would continue to spread for years like a regular seasonal influenza virus (WHO, 2010b). Facing the challenges from the global pandemic, China is among the countries that were hit hard by H1N1 (Han, Zhang, Chu & Shen, 2013). The total estimated 128,033 hospitalizations and 805 deaths were reported by August 2010 (Ministry of Health of the People's Republic of China, 2010).

When a health risk broke out, the general public usually relies on mass media for related information (Hayes & Grossman, 2006), as mass media are able to obtain accurate information, relieve uncertainty and calm the audience (Gräber, 1980). The large scale and the significant consequences of HIN 1 have likewise drawn much attention from Chinese news media. This pandemic offers an appropriate opportunity to examine the latent attributes of media coverage on certain health risk for a better understanding of the role the media play in a "risk society" (Beck, see Ritter, 1993).

The notion of news framing arguably serves as a proper theoretical framework in this endeavor. Mostly of previous framing analyses on media coverage of H1N1 outbreak (Chang, 2010; Ibrabim, Mustaffa & Kee, 2010; Wang, Smith & Worawongs, 2010), nevertheless, focus on print media and do not include television news coverage. The current study thus aims to fill the gap by examining how the leading evening news show, China Central Television's xinwen Hanbo2 (hereafter, CCTV News Broadcast), frame H1N1 over its life span from April 2009 through October 2010, as well as how it uses a variety of news sources when covering HINT This study also evaluates the possible correlations between news frames and news sources in CCTV, as a partial reflection of the influence of the media system on health-related TV news frame in China.


Mass Media in China

As the agency of interest groups, mass media reflect the ideology of their owners that control their financial or personnel resources or both. Generally speaking, major outlets of Chinese mass media are still tightly controlled by the propaganda system of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP, hereafter the Party). According to Lee (1990), through this "command" system, the Party exerts rigorous ideological control on mass media at all levels, from content to page layout. Politics and politicians are deeply involved in the running and daily operation of Chinese media. As a result, mass media help maintain the status quo either actively or passively (see also Han, 2007).

Market-driven economic reforms since the end of the 1970s have loosened, to some extent, the Party's censorship on non-political media content. Mass-appeal contents are produced to please the audience so as to maximize market share. Zhao (1998) argues that contemporary Chinese mass media are suffering simultaneously from the pressure of ideology and the pressure of market competition. His (2000) metaphor of "tug-of-war" describes the dilemma of the "Party Press," which is converting itself into a "Party Publicity Inc." (p. 112). Pan (2000) uses "improvising activities" to explain the sporadic or occasional reforms generated in the routine journalistic practice in China, as which are carried out under continual ideological control. …

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