CCTV Africa begins live broadcast to China

Broadcast

The countdown starts and the Kenyan news reader runs through the top headlines for the evening bulletin. In a few minutes he will go on air in Nairobi, broadcasting live for China state television.

It's 8:00 pm in the Kenyan capital and 1:00 am in Beijing, when China Central Television (CCTV) hands over to its Nairobi team for "Africa Live", an hour-long flagship programme billed as a "new voice" for African news and Sino-African relations.

On a recent night, the spotlight was on Rwanda's economic expansion and the Somali athletes taking part in the Olympics in London.

"We want to keep a balance," Pang Xinhua, CCTV's Managing Editor who runs a network of correspondents in a dozen African countries, told AFP. "We are not only talking about war, diseases or poverty, we also focus on economic development."

"Africa Live" is put together by a team of 60 or so people in Nairobi - about 50 of them Kenyans. It holds a prime time slot in east Africa but is also televised worldwide.

"We opened this bureau in order to be able to tell the real Africa story, the real story of China and the real story of Sino-African relations," CCTV Africa chief Song Jianing said, echoing remarks by China's ambassador to Kenya when the switchover started in January.

Nairobi was CCTV's first regional bureau to produce and broadcast its own hour-long news programme. Its cousin CCTV America soon followed suit.

CCTV Africa, meanwhile, insists that it wants to present the world through an African prism. "The thing I like is that we are telling the story from our perspective," said Beatrice Marshall, a star news reader at the Kenyan station KTN who was wooed over to CCTV Africa.

On the delicate issue of whether Beijing censors content, Douglas Okwatch, editor on the Saturday "Talk Africa" programme presented by Marshall, said staff have a free hand on their stories "as long as they are objective, balanced and not dragging in unnecessary controversies."