The Broadcasting and Television's Digitalization Strategy in China



China's broadcasting and TV industry has entered into the new era of all-round digitalization. The country's digitalization work does not only make progress in traditional broadcasting and TV area, but also carried on mobile phone and Internet market, which now is becoming an all-inclusive broadcasting and TV service system. In this process, "Integration of Three Networks", public service and content supervise are the three main features of broadcasting and TV's Digitalization Strategy in China.


All-inclusive coverage system, integration of three networks, public service, content supervise

After ten year's development, China's broadcasting and TV industry has entered into the new era of all-round digitalization. The country's digitalization work does not only make progress in traditional broadcasting and TV area, but also carried on mobile phone and Internet market, which now is becoming an all-inclusive broadcasting and TV service system. Based on these foundations, the broadcasting and TV industry did many vigorous works on the "Integration of Three Networks" (Three Networks refers to the Broadcasting and Television network, the Internet network and the Telecom network, and the "Integration of Three Networks" also can be said "Triple Play"), and was clearly stick to principle of public service and content supervise.

Three main features of broadcasting and TV’s Digitalization Strategy in China

The all-inclusive coverage status of China's broadcasting and TV new media

In the past, the family audience oriented TV program's transmission can be only transit through three kinds of networks: wireless network, cable network and satellite network. Now with the advance progress of digitalization and years of scientific and technological innovation, the radio and TV coverage and service system has far beyond the past: firstly, the overlay network's type has made an extension from cable, wireless and satellite to the Internet, mobile media and other fields. Secondly, the terminal equipments were also extended to TV set, mobile phone, and computer and out-door large screen. Thirdly, the kind of audience was extended to both family and individual. Fourthly, the content of broadcasting TV program was also greatly enhanced through digitalization, HD and 3D contents were gradually entered into the homes of ordinary people. Thus, the radio and TV in China has established a complementary and coordinated developing, all-inclusive coverage network system with service function greatly enhanced.

In the all-inclusive coverage system of broadcasting television, each transmission channel performed its own role and function.

    1. Cable Television

Until 2012, Q3, the number of cable digital TV subscriber reached 153,600,000, with the digitalization rate of 76.22% .
The main role of cable television is to provide basic TV service and diversified and personalized add-value services for urban users to meet people’s culture and entertainment and information demand. The development direction of cable television can be included into four words: two-way, interactive, multi-function and full-service. Based on the reality of China, one-way transmission is the major mean, so the emphasis of cable TV digitalization work is the popularity of two-way set- top box and interactive service. At the same time, the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (SARFT) is stepping up the construction of national interoperable platform and the national cable network company from a strategic perspective. The author believes this behavior would take advantage in the cable network’s intensive, large-scale and industrial development.

    1. Direct Broadcast Satellite

The direct broadcast satellite has made a great progress in these two years. The direct broadcast satellite TV in China is based on the radio and television public service for the “blind villages” and the cable network un-accessed rural areas, to meet the demand of the rural masses to watch multiple programs and fulfill equalization of TV public service in urban and rural areas. Currently, the major job of direct broadcast satellite TV is to promote “every household connect” project, whose target is to make TV connection of all the 200,000,000 rural users in 2015, and now until October 25th,2012, it has reached 3,267,553 household.

    1. Terrestrial broadcast TV

More than 80% digital TV operators can provide terrestrial broadcast TV service in China, the terrestrial broadcast TV system covered near 300 cities in more than 30 provinces.
The object of terrestrial broadcast TV service is rural households. It is very clear of its strategic positioning: it is the most basic broadcast TV service, provide for free, as the primary means of government to provide public services. And there is a law and regulation of SARFT in guarantee terrestrial broadcast TV’s public service attributes: if it is found that the local operator collected fees to users, the operator will be resolutely banned.
By the development of direct broadcasting TV, providing local program content by dual-mode set-top box has become an important duty of terrestrial broadcast television. The SARFT also provides many positive supports to this behavior such as priority approval of frequency resource.

    1. Mobile TV in Bus

Take advantage of mobility characteristics of terrestrial digital broadcast TV, cable TV operators and TV station can also provide TV services in buses, metro, outdoor large screens to meet the demand of people watching TV through public media in public area. Currently, the bus mobile TV has generally launched in many cities.

    1. China Mobile Multimedia Broadcasting(CMMB)

As the primary means of TV service through small-screen mobile terminal, China Mobile Multimedia Broadcasting (CMMB) can meet the needs of mobile populations to receive TV program and information. Since the CMMB standard promulgated in 2006, DMMB has built up a complete industrial chain system covering nearly 400 cities across the country, more than 1000 kinds of terminals and the more than 30 million users.

    1. IPTV is the major service in “Triple Play” recently

All the media mentioned above all are the businesses can be done independently by broadcasting TV network, however, with the development of integration of three networks; the radio and television industry is also active in pushing the communication network and the Internet service. Through cooperation with telecom operators, TV operators carried out mobile TV, IPTV, network TV and other new media services. Further more in these services, the right of content control is firmly grasped by TV operators.
Now IPTV in China is of service to household subscribers mainly. Telecom operators, IPTV first-lever platform and the sub-platform are all responsible for the marketing job, but the content must come from the TV operators. Until December, 2011, the number of subscriber of IPTV has been exceeded over 15 million, and with the industrial relations become clear gradually and the services become various, IPTV will enter into a new developing stage.
The Commercial Services on IPTV in China

Service style

Specific Services

Content Service

Direct Broadcasting Service

Traditional Channels, Pay-TV Channels

On Demand Service

VOD, Information on Demand

Push Service

PVR, Information(Politics, Weather, Travel, Community, Magazine and Brand Zone)

Other Service

Life Service

Healthcare at home, House Security, Hospital Registering online, Vote online

Education Service

Distant education, Quiz online

Entertainment Service


Commercial Service

Purchasing online, Pay bills (gas, water, electricity), Buy tickets(train, film and opera plays)

Besides IPTV, mobile TV and network TV are the other primary business services about “Triple Play”. Mobile TV is mainly for personal users, whose terminal is mobile phone. In the mobile TV industrial market, the identity of broadcasting and television institution is content provider. Network television station is constructed by broadcasting and television institution self, which has become an important power in the field of Internet online video. The Internet TV’s program transit through public network, which is promoted by broadcasting and television institutions and electrical appliance enterprises with content license, has also become a strong competitor in the battle of home entertainment centers.

    1. The status of TV station’s digitalization work

Since content is the core resource, advantage and competitiveness of television, it has been made a constantly improvement by the broadcasting and television institutions, in addition to the improvement of transmission channel system.
On the one hand, in order to meet the development needs of omnimedia, TV station has made a great promotion in content digitalization and the technique of network direct transit system. A new integrated digital technology system which includes gathering, editing, broadcasting, saving and using is in construction. And an integrated production and broadcast system facing variety of broadcast platforms and user terminals is on the way too.
On the other hand, the television stations have also increased the production of high-definition TV and 3D TV program. Currently, SARFT is active in organizing and developing China’s self innovative 3D TV technology standard system to promote industrial upgrading and to pull the market consumption.

All-Inclusive Broadcasting and TV Service System

  1. What has been done by the broadcasting TV part in “Triple Play”

    The integration of three networks now has become an inevitable trend of media development, while facing this great historical changing period, the broadcast and television in China is not blindly evasive or complain, but active in facing the challenge, started to layout.
2.1 The overall strategy of broadcasting TV part
2.1.1 Control the right to run content
During the integration of three networks, firmly grasping the right to control content is the core strategy and the important responsibility of broadcasting and television part. This because in China, the concept of “content safety” does not only refers to the accuracy of broadcasting process, the authenticity of the content, but also the ideology expressed by the content. So the content especially the audio and video content should be in strictly exam.
The “Overall Program to Promote Triple Play” promulgated by the State Council in January 2010 has clearly ruled out that the construction and management of integrated broadcast control platform should be in charged by the broadcasting and television part, and the telecommunication part can only provide the transmission service. Now this basic tone is still kept the same.
In the next following two years, by the method of licensing, publish regulations and strong measures, SARFT achieved effective control of broadcast video and audio content. Now, whether transmitting direct to which kind of terminal, sending by which kind of network, the broadcast video and audio service must submit to this management.
2.1.2 Set up organizations about “Triple Play”
Since the integration of three networks was officially promoted in 2010, the broadcast and television has always been very positive.
At the level of government, SARFT set up “Network Management Division” specially, which is focused at managing video and audio content on-line. At the same time, SARFT launched a series of encouraging policy on “Triple Play”, through active communication with Ministry of Industry and Information Technology of the People’s Republic of China (MIIT) and other relevant government departments. On February 14, 2012, Luo Jianhui, person in charge of Network Management Division said after a year of communication and coordination, SARFT and MIIT have reached a lot of consensus to resolve the ideological differences, and have got a common understanding, which will play a positive role in pushing “Triple Play” to next new stage.
But specific to the broadcast and television organizations, on the one hand, they have explored various business services specifically in “Triple Play”. On the other hand, they also have carried out various levels of cooperation with telecom operators and Internet companies actively, their integrations includes many fields, even in the capital level.
2.1.2 Accelerate internal integration to face the competition
In order to make a difference in the “Triple Play”, the priority thing of China’s broadcast and television institutions is to change the fragmented organizing structure. Therefore, the broadcasting and television proposed to establish the Next Generation of Broadcasting network (NGB) in 2009. According to the officially saying, whole network, interoperability, management control are the core of NGB’s building idea.
To build NGB, the first thing of broadcast and television institutions should complete is the inner integration of cable television networks. On this basis, the SARFT advanced a new plan to format a national cable television network company, hoped this company would become the main competitor to the telecom companies and would help to complete the inner interconnection within broadcast and television system.
In order to achieve the NGB's strategic intent and to play a supporting role of the national cable network company’s construction, SARFT advanced national cable network interconnection platform technology programs “1+3+6”, where “1”refers to “one center”(the national content distribution switching center), “3”refers to “three systems”(content monitoring system, operation support settlement system, backbone transport exchange system), "6" refers to the “six kind of content base” (broadcast television program base, cultural resource content base, digital TV publication base, digital TV interactive education base, information service base, digital television internet base, etc.).
When it is built up, the interconnection platform will be applied as the core platform of national cultural communication, to launch a nationwide cross-regional and cross-platform, and cross-terminal business, which will take a great function in interoperability over networks in all areas, as well as their different services and operation support systems.
2.2 Specific Measures to promote “Triple Play”
From the specific implementation measures, the broadcasting and television part in “triple play” mainly takes the following measures:
Firstly, the pilot institution’s demonstration function took effect. Since 2010, the first batch of 13 pilot areas announced, 13 regional broadcasting and television institutions have been actively in proposal and implement. After more than one years’ operation, the pilot number of the 2011 expanded to 40. It can be predicted, the pilot areas give good examples to others.
Secondly, actively cooperate with telecom operators and Internet companies. This cooperation takes from two aspects: service level and capital level. In the service level, by the cooperation cable TV operators launched many new cooperated services such as “TV Taobao”( is a popular electrical business site in China), “TV  Bank”, “TV video calls” and so on. And some local cable TV operators shared customer service room with telecom operators, so that to allow the subscribers got a payment convenience. While in the capital level, the capital cooperation between television and telecom operators have been carried out. In the end of 2011, China Telecom became the second largest shareholder of Shenzhen Topway through the acquisition of shares is an example.
Thirdly, create new services of triple play. These new services include video calls, three-screen interactive, internet of things, home security service, etc. These services makes broadcasting and television network become an integrated platform could transmit video, voice and information. The author considers the integration of three networks is not the issue of one side integrates the other, but both of them can provide variety of services in anyone of them. So from this perspective, the broadcasting and television network is the one with triple play functionality. 

  1. Establish and improve the public service system of broadcasting and television

    The primary task of broadcast and television is to ensure the public service, which is also the one to broadcast and television’s new media development. The arduous work of public service makes it become a long-term task and a system project. Currently, broadcasting and television gradually establish a public service system in three dimensions.
3.1 Ensure equal radio and television services
Equalization and public welfare come first over others on the issue of public service, which is the principle of broadcasting and television insisted for a long time.
In order to solve the coverage problem, the broadcasting and television part launched “New West Project” aimed at the areas inhabited by the minority nationalities, “Village Connection Project” aimed at the rural and remote mountainous areas, “Film Projection in Rural Area Project” and some other systematic and long-term projects. From the current point of view, the direct broadcast satellite is the chief method to achieve the task of full coverage and every household connection
Besides the coverage, services also adhere to the characteristics of public service. The terrestrial digital TV has been provided for free since the beginning until now. The direct satellite TV in the current phase is also free to provide 48 sets of programs as well as a number of agriculture-related information. The fee charged by cable TV is very low, with a strong public service color. In addition, the broadcasting and television continues to increase the content of public cultural services. Through the cooperation with Organization Department (CCCPC), Ministry of Culture, Party School of the CPC, the broadcasting and television part can put the content of distance education of party members and the content in National Cultural Information Resource Sharing Project into the direct satellite platform. And now by the cooperation with the Ministry of Land and Resources, the emergency broadcast system of direct satellite TV can also play the role of geological disasters forecasting and early warning.
3.2 Establish national emergency broadcast system
In order to play the important role of responding to public emergencies better, the broadcasting and television part now begin to establish the national emergency broadcast system.
This emergency broadcast system will take full advantage of the existing network infrastructure, technology and organized structure, which medium coverage will include medium/short-wave broadcast and FM broadcast, digital cable TV, mobile multimedia broadcast television, direct broadcast satellite, digital audio broadcasting and other means, thus to ensure that people can be received in a timely manner under various states of emergency broadcast.
At present, the construction of the emergency broadcast system is still in its infancy. The SARFT has organized and carried out the infrastructure work about emergency broadcast technology since 2011, and has finished “Early Demand of National Emergency Broadcast System Research Report” and the “Overall Technology Plan of Emergency Broadcast”, the technology and equipment in the key links in addition, such as emergency broadcast information scheduling control, transmission distribution, front-end broadcast, terminal receives, effect assessment and so on. Now the SARFT is engaged in developing the related technology norms and standards.
In the end of 2011, in accordance with the work idea of “building one platform, getting through three channels”, the SARFT carried out the job of technical test of emergency broadcast system. An initial emergency broadcast scheduling control platform has been built, which can be linked with the direct broadcast satellite, mobile multimedia broadcast television and FM radio.
In the next stage, the emergency broadcast system will come to the actual effect testing, and it will be promoted around the country as soon as possible. It is expected by the end of 2015, the national emergency broadcast system will be basically completed.

  1. Establish regulatory system of radio and television in converged media environment

With the continuous development of scientific and technological progress and new broadcast TV services and new media, the traditional radio and television regulatory work is increasingly unable to meet the requirements of the new era. Therefore, broadcasting and television system is establishing a new regulatory system to adapt to the converged media environment.
   4.1 Broadcasting safety
No matter what kind of media forms, broadcasting safety is the most important thing of television business. In the past, the traditional broadcasting system has got a lot of experience. However in the future what it should think about is how to adapt to the new media environment and conditions to ensure content security on the new media. This is an unprecedented challenge and arduous task to the operators and governors.
4.2 Apply new technological method
In 2011, the “SARFT Supervision Center” was established, which was integrated by the “video and audio center”, “safety broadcast scheduling center”, “internet audio and video program monitoring center” and “satellite TV on board regulatory system”. This supervision center made an organic integration of the original resources and established a unified regulatory platform to achieve a comprehensive supervision from traditional media to new media, from wired, wireless to satellite, from technology to content, so as to improve the management efficiency greatly, which is also marking China’s broadcasting and television monitoring and supervision job entered into a new historical stage.
In the future, broadcasting and television system in China will be active in infrastructure construction of monitoring technology and content supervision by high-tech means. What’s more, it will take a further research about the technical studies of IPTV, mobile TV, Internet TV and new business services to explore an actual, targeted and actionable audio-visual new media regulatory system.
4.3 Strengthen copyright protection and management
At present, China’s regulatory method is beforehand management by issue a variety of content licenses. However, facing the increasing number of media types and more complex environment, this method is more and more criticized. So in the future, it asks for innovation

In addition, from the perspective of stimulating the development of content industry, copyright protection is more important than licensing. However at present, piracy in new media or use traditional radio and television content freely can be seen everywhere, an important reason for this problem is that the ill-defined copyright system and ineffective protection. So the SARFT should be responsible for this, develop more scientific, rational and effective copyright protection and management system to promote a variety of content resources a rational and orderly flow in a variety of channels, to generate a legal efficiency gains, so as to protect the value of content increasing.