Discussions on BBC Chinese 'Have Your Say' forums: national identity and international broadcasting in the interactive media era

Tong, Jingrong and Mackay, Hugh (2012). Discussions on BBC Chinese 'Have Your Say' forums: national identity and international broadcasting in the interactive media era. In: Gillespie, Marie and Webb, Alban eds. Diasporas and Diplomacy: Cosmopolitan Contact Zones at the BBC World Service (1932-2012). CRESC. London: Routledge, pp. 230–247.

URL: http://www.routledge.com/books/details/97804155088...

Abstract

This chapter explores the extent to which the BBC Chinese Service can forge a ‘global conversation’ in the interactive media era. With the development and growth of interactive media, the BBC World Service faces new challenges in promoting British values. The chapter reports an analysis of discussions about four democracy-related topics on the BBC World Service’s Chinese ‘Have Your Say’ forum. It explains how the Chinese Service provides a space for virtual Chinese transnational communication, where dissidents and supporters of the Chinese government come together – to discuss topics that are banned and censored by the Chinese government. Whilst much of their discussion is polarized, such divisions are cross-cut by other affiliations and perspectives – for example, regarding regional, ethnic or religious affiliations. More than this, contributors to the discussions are bound together by a common commitment to ‘being Chinese’, with the forums providing a platform for the expression and constitution of a sense of national identification. This deep-seated, collective and patriotic sense of ‘being Chinese’ provides a powerful counter to the pro- and anti-Chinese Communist Party and Chinese government polarization that characterises how editors at the BBC commonly set up forum questions and introductions. Whilst the outcome can hardly be seen as a fluent ‘global conversation’ or the Habermasian public sphere, it represents a very different form of cultural connection and contact than is the case with broadcasting.

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