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Digital age redefines media role in society

2018-11-09Source: China Daily   Cang Wei, Zhang Yangfei and Wang Keju in Wuzhen, Zhejiang


Attendees listen to a speech at a forum held during the Fifth World Internet Conference in Wuzhen, Zhejiang province, on Thursday. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Tech evolution brings not just opportunities but challenges, social responsibility, officials stress

Traditional media must adapt to new developments like digitalization to continue to attract audiences, said China's top publicity officials.

Shen Haixiong, deputy head of the Publicity Department of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and president of China Media Group, said traditional media players should keep on learning and improve their competitiveness in the digital era.

"Traditional media will reach a dead end if they don't change," said Shen. "Elephants should also learn how to street dance today to embrace digitalization. Traditional media should get the initiative and power of the media during reform and innovation."

Shen made the remarks during the forum on "Media Reform and Communication Innovation" at the 5th World Internet Conference in Wuzhen, Zhejiang province, East China, on Thursday.


Shen Haixiong, deputy head of the Publicity Department of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and president of China Media Group, speaks at a forum during the Fifth World Internet Conference in Wuzhen, Zhejiang province, on Thursday. [Photo provided to China Daily]

"The media's value will keep increasing with the development of the information revolution," Shen said. "With more and more people publishing various kinds of content, there appears to be an overflow of invalid and harmful information. Therefore, media need to play more important roles as the protector of public opinion credibility, and the promoter of social consensus, as a values-based leader and as a watchdog of fairness and justice."

In the congratulatory message to the conference, which opened on Wednesday, President Xi Jinping expressed his hope that all countries will deepen their cooperation to inject vitality into efforts to build a global community with a shared future in cyberspace.

Xi also said that joint endeavors for governance of the internet are necessary to ensure that all countries benefit from it, with digital technology playing an increasingly important role in the integration of the globalized world.

Thursday's forum, which was hosted by China Media Group,, CRI Online, and Sina Corp, focused on the mass media's role in societies amid the development of digital technologies, which find wide applications in media.

Zhuang Rongwen, deputy head of the Publicity Department of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and minister of Cyberspace Administration of China, said as the internet has become the main channel for people to produce, disseminate and obtain information, major media organizations should adhere to norms that channel public opinion in the correct direction and stick to ethics in online communications, in order to ensure their authenticity and objectivity.

He said media should innovate their communication methods to build positive and healthy views in society and promote good cultural values.

Besides effective communication methods, reliable, wholesome content should be at the core of internet development, as it serves as a spiritual home for hundreds of millions of netizens, Zhuang said.

"We hope that mainstream media will accord top priority to creation of good content and be able to use today's diverse technologies to discover and tell more vivid and lively stories on top of maintaining high-quality original content," he said.

Media should step up their efforts to meet the growing information needs of the public, create more interesting content of good quality and guide netizens to become content producers, mass communicators and drivers of positive change, he said.

At present, tech-age phenomena like digitalization, networking, and intelligent technologies have led human beings into a new era. Therefore, only by adapting to the trend of technological change, strengthening pro-internet thinking, embracing new changes, making good use of new technologies, and capturing new trends can people cultivate a sense of initiative to drive future development, Zhuang said.

He stressed that technological innovation should always play a leading role in the evolution of media. When it comes to new media products, media organizations should strengthen technical support and integrate advanced technologies such as big data, information visualization, cloud computing, artificial intelligence into product planning, content production and communication.

Zhuang urged the media to focus on creating a communication style and online platforms that match the habits of new-media audiences, which will help build a mobile communication matrix with diverse platforms, rich content and wide coverage.

"We will continue to deepen the international exchanges and cooperation in network communication and make the internet a new bridge to promote people-to-people bonds, a new link for cultural exchanges, and a new space for information sharing," Zhuang said.

China will learn from the experiences and innovations in the field of mass communications in other countries and conduct dialogues and exchanges with experts, scholars, international organizations and media, Zhuang said.

The country is also encouraging Chinese online media to go overseas to present a true and comprehensive picture of China to the world, share Chinese stories and Chinese views with global netizens, and introduce more China-related experiences to the global media industry.

Charles Cao, chairman and CEO of Sina Corporation, said the number of internet users has been soaring in recent years, which had a huge impact on the society as the line that separates the online and offline worlds is blurring or dissolving.

The development of internet presents not only opportunities but challenges. Social media, for example, proliferated rumors and fake news while changing the way information is produced and disseminated, and online ride-hailing services also raised concerns over safety.

"Solving these problems requires the joint efforts of government, media and internet-based companies. Online platforms should particularly be careful with their growing influence and keep social responsibilities and self-regulation in mind," he said.

According to Cao, one of the ways that Weibo, as one of the biggest social media players in China, practised in terms of shouldering social responsibility is to amplify the voice of the authorities concerned. Weibo now has more than 30,000 verified media accounts and over 170,000 government accounts.

Weibo has also applied advanced technologies to crack down on rumors and fake news and partnered with science communication companies to counterattack rumors and disseminate authentic and credible scientific information to the public.

While smart machines such as algorithm-powered scanners provide potent tools to filter rumors off cyberspace, they cannot discern whether or not the value of the information is positive, and Cao said he believes a human role is still needed.

Wang Binying, deputy director general of the international bureau of the World Intellectual Property Organization, expressed concerns over the rapid development of technologies. "Media revolution is driven by technology and if media communication is to be effective, a solid intellectual property protection needs to form," she said.

The internet cannot be a lawless space and the growth of the digital economy needs to be based on a transparent, comprehensive and fair regulatory system, she said, adding that is why WIPO is striving to formulate regulations related to digitalization.

"We must ensure a balanced system for the development of technology, which can generate positive results," she said.