State-regulated Chinese TV conjures images of propaganda, whether dull or sinister, in the eyes of westerners. But Moira Weigel, writing in N+1, found something that's harder to see as exotic and foreign. Of Shanghai Media Group, where she volunteered:
It had become an association of what were effectively PR companies, like ICS, making advertisements — if not for individual products, then for the high life available in China’s booming coastal cities. Slicker than CNN, more aggressively confident than CNBC, it was our own publicity apparatus refracted back to us — in a country where largesse and wealth still carried the scent of overall growth, rather than sour, curdled privilege.
Weigel juxtaposes the slick, apolitical productions of Shanghai Media Group, which started one of the nation's first 24-hour English-language channels, with those from the '60s and '70s, where "Beijing TV's evening news show devoted eighteen of its twenty-six minutes to scrolling quotations from Mao." The central story, though, is more about how mass media has evolved worldwide in the past decades, and the moving target of what we consider propaganda and corruption.