CHINA / National

Television informs, entertains farmers
By Hu Cong (China Daily)
Updated: 2006-03-27 06:01

Twenty years ago, a black-and-white television receiving grainy images was enough to make any rural Chinese home the centre of an evening's entertainment in a land where TV was rare and channels even rarer.

Today that is nothing more than a memory, with a feast of television programmes available to even the remotest islands and valleys.

"In the past I only used to get one or two channels and the image was often blurry, but now I can get more than 40 channels and the picture is so clear and stable," said Si Zhibin, a villager in Yingshan County, Sichuan Province in Southwest China.

The 658 villages in the mountainous county had just 20,000 TV viewers before 2000.

With such limited access to programmes, many rural residents had little idea what was going on outside their community.

All that has changed, with every village in the county now enjoying access to cable TV.

Si, whose village was hooked up to cable TV at the end of last year, said that watching news and drama programmes is now an essential part of his daily life. "It feels great," he said.

Si's experience epitomizes the development of TV across the nation. In 1998, the central government launched the Cuncuntong Project, which aims to give all villages access to radio and TV. At the time, it was estimated about 148 million people in 680,000 villages were not covered by radio and TV signals.

Both the central government and local authorities had ploughed 3.44 billion yuan (US$428 million) into the project by the end of last year, according to the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (SARFT). This huge investment improved the TV broadcasting coverage rate to 95.8 per cent from 87 per cent in 1997.

"The goal of radio and TV services is to meet people's increasing cultural demands," said SARFT spokesman Zhu Hong.

He said the government would continue to invest to improve news, children's, rural and ethnic minorities' programming, while also developing digital TV and making efforts to ensure that radio and TV signals cover the entire country.

SARFT Vice-Minister Zhang Haitao recently confirmed that the long-awaited terrestrial digital TV broadcasting standard is due to be released this year, which will promote the digitalization of TV in China.
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