The convergence of the Chinese press industry is thus not merely driven by the effects of market and technological logic from the beginning, unlike in Europe and the US. Actually, administrative fiat plays a pivotal role in each stage of media convergence. In the mid- and late-1990s, the ‘touch the Internet’ (Chuwang) action of traditional news media, namely to establish online newspapers, has expanded from the top to the bottom ‘with the state as the sponsor’ and ‘national media as the leader’ (Yu, 2015). Similarly, the establishment of the collaborative relationship between newspapers and new media on news production at the beginning of the 21st century could not be realised without the intervention of administrative power, including approval for the construction of major news websites to produce original contents. The wave of media convergence that began in 2006 is also inseparable from the official ‘top-down design’. In the beginning, the General Administration of Press and Publication was concurrently the project sponsor and supervisor. Thereafter, the media convergence of the central and local press industry has been highly dependent on financial funding from the government.
The case study of Fujian indicates that what lies beneath the persistent tension between newspaper offices and new media departments is substantively a conflict of economic interest that results from the competitive relationship amongst various media outlets within the local press group since the period of media conglomeration. Adjusting the administrative structure cannot reduce this tension as long as the economic logic is not thoroughly challenged.
As national policy is further loosened, the Chinese media have begun exploring diversified modes of business operation. In 1996, the Guangzhou Daily Newspaper Group announced its foundation, thereby unfolding the prelude of conglomeration of Chinese media. However, the process of conglomeration accelerated significantly only during the turn of the millennium, which has also benefited from the promulgation of a series of polices.
47 On 10 and 12 April, media briefings with Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang were convened. See http://www.fmprc.gov.cn, accessed 31 May 2007. For reports see Beijing Youth Daily, 13 April 2008, Jinghua shibao, 13 April 2005, China Daily, 13 April 2005. Similar announcements by the spokesperson of the Public Security Bureau followed. See People's Daily and Beijing Youth Daily, 22 April 2005.
The impetus for junior journalists to participate in the converging news production is the same consideration that prevents senior journalists from collaborating with the new media centre, that is, to achieve the balance between gain and cost. The industry and the journalists ‘inside the system’ (tizhinei) are likely to opt for political safety over financial return, whereas their counterparts ‘outside the system’ (tizhiwai) ascribe considerable importance to the latter than the former.
67 The side with higher audience costs is less likely to back down in a foreign crisis and therefore able to signal its intentions to other states more credibly than states with lower audience costs. Fearon, J.D., “Domestic political audiences and the escalation of international disputes,” American Political Science Review, Vol. 88, No. 3 (1994), pp. 577–92. Weiss, “Powerful patriots: nationalism, diplomacy and the strategic logic of anti-foreign protest.”
Moreover, the decline of influence on public opinion is definitely another key factor that triggered the convergence within Chinese press industry. It is fairly illustrated in Secretary-General Xi Jinping’s ‘8•19’ speech on ‘boost the convergence between traditional and new media, and completely apply new technology in innovating the forms of media communication to seize a commanding height in the field of information communication’ (Liu, 2014). This situation is relatively similar to that of the media conglomeration in the late 1990s, when the legitimacy of reform stemmed from the policy of making domestic media ‘bigger and stronger’ to pre-empt the anticipated foreign competition in the World Trade Organization era. Meanwhile, a majority of domestic press groups were established based on administrative decrees rather than on business demands (Chen and Lee, 1998). Eliminating ‘dispersion’ and ‘chaos’ in the public opinion domain is the key factor that catalyses both media conglomeration and media convergence.
Jenkins (2004) stressed that media convergence should be viewed as a ‘culture’ because it changed the relationship among technology, industry, market, product type and audience. By scrutinising the relationship between media institution and practitioners, the culture-oriented approach can facilitate the re-examination of the interaction mechanism between the institutional arrangement of media convergence and the logic of actors, as well as reconsideration of the social structure on a microscopic scale, thereby narrowing the gap between the media economics and media performance approaches.
Focusing on the ‘top-down design’ of media convergence, market-oriented research relatively lacks in social solicitude and theoretical construction; valuing the ethics and obligations of converging media, the norm-oriented research demonstrates intense social solicitude but hardly receives industry-wide recognition. Both types of research fail to explain the full influence of media convergence. Considering that journalists are the critical actors of news production, the advancement of media convergence cannot proceed without the institutional arrangement from the top to the bottom as well as without the commitment and involvement of journalistic practitioners, particularly journalists, from the bottom to the top. The interaction between these two processes ultimately determines the scope, intensity and nature of the influences of media convergence.
Although the competitiveness of commercial new media are discerned, the interviewed journalists remain inclined to regard the contents of new media as ‘superficial’, ‘fast food-like’ and ‘targeting lower-level readers’. Accordingly, the journalists believe that the poor quality of the content provided by the nonprofessional new media outlets further highlights the importance of the journalists’ professional expertise of separating falsity from truth.
Accordingly, the following questions must be answered in the context where the tension between newspapers and new media departments seems persistent: What will be the destiny of metropolis newspapers if they deviate from converging news production? Will other types of newspapers, due to their loss of market competitive edge to new media outlets, shift to the role of ‘Party Mouthpiece’ that has previously been performed by the party organs? Evidently, these questions can be explored in future research.
Such a characteristic of we-media has further squeezed the price bidding space of the new media of Fujian press industry in the area of content in local journalists’ eyes. What is worse, the procedure of three-phase censorship that deviates from the logic of new media is not strictly followed during the course of converging news production. Delays in the course of censorship have not only impaired the market competitiveness of the new media in terms of content, but also considerably reduced the willingness of journalists to collaborate with the new media centre.