There's a great tale of pay for play at China Central Television here, or rather a wonderfully dry translation of a juicy scandal involving Guo Zhenxi, who controlled the Station's finance and business coverage. Well yes: finance and business. Lots of opportunities there!
But lets start from the top. The first part of the story describes Guo's successful rise and the “innovative strategies” he used to get there and increase the station's profitability. Actually, it's a precise description of the network of corruption he established at the station posing as a success story. While this is a breaking scandal – and while there's no doubt that Guo will be found to be corrupt – it's not politic to just come out frankly and say that the business and consumer coverage of China's version of the BBC is essentially given over to racketeering. At least not in English. I understand that Chinese version of the story is a lot more frank.
Now we move on to something more specific:
Some critics of the programming say Guo may have used the consumer and business awards shows to illegally extract personal benefits. He could, they say, have used his position to decide which companies to target for consumer investigations and which to honor with awards. They also say he may have arranged to shed positive light on some companies and negative light on others in exchange for pay-offs .
This isn't the charge. It may well be and its almost certainly what he did. But the Discipline Inspectors have yet to move on this, so we can anticipate them but not pre-empt them. Now we get to the inflection point, the proximate cause of Guo's downfall.
CCTV2's investigations into Baidu services gave the broadcaster's critics more ammunition. The August 2011 reports charged Baidu with misleading users of its search engine and giving fake results. Investors then sold off the company's stock.
Media insiders claimed Guo engineered an attack on Baidu. Another CCTV staffer said Guo may have turned against Baidu after its executives refused his request to delete Web posts criticizing a food company. Guo wanted to defend the food company because he received money, said the staffer.
So, basically, he was taking bribes to lean on China's biggest search engine to delete unfavourable commentary of a large corporation. In other words he was a leading figure in China's secondary censorship market. Incidentally, this is the first time I can recall that a new media company in China – albeit a huge one – has managed to prevail on the Chinese state to fend off an old media company, and an extremely prestigious one at that. In other words, Beijing regards its largest search engine as a trusted partner, not as a problem to be managed. At least not in this context.