By Assunta Ng
Northwest Asian Weekly
Last year, former Bloomberg TV anchor–reporter Phillip Yin wanted to challenge Sen. Maria Cantwell and, in the process, become the first Chinese American senator from the mainland United States. The showdown never materialized, as his supporters did not send campaign money. After he put his political dreams on hold, another door opened.
Yin, 37, who grew up in Yakima, is the launch anchor for the Chinese television network China Central Television (CCTV) News America, an English-language channel based in Washington D.C. CCTV America was launched on Feb. 6.
Perceived as an arm of the Chinese government, which is stereotyped as one of heavy censorship, CCTV America represents the latest initiative in CCTV’s effort to grow its English-language news channel for a global audience. CCTV has about $5 billion invested in it. About $100 million is in its U.S. channel.
“This is historical,” said Yin. “[The Chinese government] let Americans do the show. [And] it’s headquartered in D.C.”
About 40 years ago, NBC went to China, seeking access. Now, it’s the other way round, said Yin. “China is finally moving in the right direction, using America for access, sources, and technology. We should be proud of that.”
CCTV America will be run by 50 journalist, most of whom were educated in the West. Yin described the journalists as ones who will have “a tremendous amount of freedom [to run programs in America].”
But to what extent?
“It will be tested down the road,” Yin said, especially if controversy occurs. So far, his senior editors are American journalists and haven’t given Yin any instructions on what to say and what not to say.
Yin knows that China is not used to freedom of the press. “But American journalists are outspoken and aggressive. They add more fuel to the fire,” he said. “They can’t be silenced.”
“A CCTV English langauge channel in the U.S. would be able operate under the same rules that apply to all media here, which is say with very few, and well- defined, restraints,” said Joseph Borich, executive director of the Washington State China Relations Council. “Within that framework, how it chooses to operate here will, I suppose, depend on the policies of its corporate leadership.”
“I would expect that an English-channel CCTV would also prompt the home offices to consider relaxing some of their rules in China,” said David Domke, professor and chair of the University of Washington Department of Communications. “It is difficult for an organization to have one set of rules for some part of the business and another set for another. So the newly experienced freedoms in the United States might lead to some broader changes for CCTV. It might not happen quickly, but I expect it would happen.”
Yin sounded excited about his new career. De-emphasizing his political aspirations, he said it is not a good time for him to run for office. He said he needed to raise a lot more money to beat Cantwell, who has already raised $4 million.
His decision not to run was a relief to his parents, Eric and Harriet.
“It’s too hard to raise money,” said his father last December. Many people overwhelmingly supported him initially.
However, when he actually asked for financial support, his fans backed off, Eric said.
The Republican Party initially said it would help Yin raise money, Eric said. But now that there are other candidates running for the same spot, it would be difficult for the party to raise just for Yin.
The party also said Yin has to raise money on his own, said his parents. That could be as much as $10 million, and $10 million is considered a moderate sum in a senate campaign compared to amounts spent in other states.
Yin’s program “Biz Asia America” will be anchored in Washington, D.C.
Yin anchored for Bloomberg Television and worked for CNBC, where he reported and anchored in Hong Kong and Singapore before he aspiring to run for a senate seat. He has a Master of Business Administration from Georgetown University. (end)
CCTV America is available on Comcast and DISH TV. It can be seen by Mercer Island residents on Channel 9 at 5 p.m. It can also be viewed online at english.cntv.cn/live.
Assunta Ng can be reached at email@example.com.