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