Saturday, January 24, 2009

CCTV: "Can we censor Obama's live speech? Yes, we can!"

This is the moment China's state-controlled TV channel CCTV decided part of Barack Obama's inaugural speech was a little, shall we say, unacceptable and hurriedly cut to a newsreader in their studio who seemed a bit surprised to be suddenly on camera.

The clip below shows what millions of viewers in China would have seen and gives an interesting insight into how an event we all watched freely in the UK would have been modified for us, had we been in China.

The line that triggered the cut-off was:
"Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks, but with sturdy alliances and enduring convictions."

I wonder if viewers realised what was happening?

Bloggers have also posted that another part of the speech that contained the line
"To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history, but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist"
has been left out of transcripts on some Chinese websites such as

I wonder if in this case, attempts to censor the speech have backfired and simply focussed attention on those sections that were 'interrupted'? At least those in China with internet access can now view his entire speech with subtitles, thanks to video sharing site

Edit: Out of curiosity I've been searching for reports of similar censorship in Russia or Cuba. So far, I haven't found any.

1 comment:

BBC Pie said...

A classic example of cultural differences and misunderstanding, methinks. On the one hand it is obvious to the "West" that Obama is primarily referring to facing up to the likes of Adolf Hitler, Stalin and the Berlin Wall. However those nervous censors at CCTV heard the words "facing up to" and "Communism" and decided that they were entering too dangerous a territory and jumped out of their skins and back to the studio. Well at least CCTV were showing the speech live, when they could have so easily showed highlights later. So that is, or was, progress to an extent.