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China: Southern Media Group bid on Newsweek rejected

Following the recent news of a the failed bid led by Southern Media Group to purchase the American magazine Newsweek, the Hefei Evening News in Anhui province seems to be the only media outlet so far that has been able to get a quote from a top editor at Southern.

After contacting executive editor in chief of Southern Weekly Xiang Xi, Hefei Evening News was actually able to get answers to a number of questions which were then syndicated by most mainstream online media in China as well as posted to a number of forums.

One possible question for discussion: with several flagship commercial newspapers considered by many to be among the best in China in Southern Media Group's portfolio, and considering its role in leading the attempted buyout, should the move be considered part of China's official ‘soft power’ push?



[Hefei Evening News] Reporter: There has been news online recently that Chengdu B-Ray Media and Southern Media Group, among other Chinese media organizations, faced setbacks after a move to purchase Newsweek magazine, as well as word that you were leading this project, are you able to verify either of these?

Xiang Xi: I saw the news online today too, actually, and it's true. This information is all public, foreign media have been reporting it over the past few days.



Reporter: Can you discuss the details of the purchase?

Xiang Xi: All parties involved including intermediaries all have an obligation to maintain confidentiality, I'm not authorized to discuss the details openly, and I especially have no authority to make public the details of the offer.



Reporter: Why did B-Ray and Southern join forces in an attempt to move into the American market via the purchase of Newsweek?

Xiang Xi: As far as I understand, the purchase offer was a spontaneous move by idealistic Chinese traditional media people and institutions. By my reckoning, having a global communications platform is something that everyone has always been striving for.



Reporter: There were other members of the financial group in this move into the American market, can you introduce them?

Xiang Xi: Just some strategic shareholders; if the auction had entered a second round, naturally they would have emerged. As we haven't yet made the second round, in accordance with the agreement their identities don't need to be disclosed. All I can say is that they are groups who recognize the desire of Chinese traditional media workers and institutions to move out into the world, that they're purely financial investors.



Reporter: Information online suggests that the reason the American side rejected the Chinese investor group wasn't related to the amount offered, so just exactly what was the reason?

Xiang Xi: There was no clear-cut reason, the rules stipulate that the seller has the power to decide which buyers can enter the second round; foreign media made a judgment based on the situation, no reasons were needed. Personally, I feel the reason is quite complex, but there is one point that can be made, the seller genuinely does not comprehend the desires of idealistic Chinese media workers and institutions.

Front page of Southern Weekly newspaper November 19, 2009 edition, via treasuresthouhast's Flickr account.




Reporter: What's the next move?

Xiang Xi: Speaking for this purchase, we will be watching the results closely. More importantly, this project comes as a wake-up call for Chinese media with shared ideals; even though the purchase of Newsweek failed, the search for investments will continue. Any media of global influence (Hong Kong and Macau media included), regardless of medium, who have an interest to attract mainland Chinese shareholders, can get in touch with us, I'll even put out my e-mail address: xiangxi100[->]

Comments on the interview left on the piece linked to above include:


China has idealistic media workers and institutions…but aside from Southern Group, no other Chinese media workers are bald-faced enough to say as much out loud.


Aren't these foreign media said to be all anti-China, habitual liars? Why on earth would you buy it, to tell lies yourself?


Appears money and authority aren't enough to make those media who dare speak the truth submit!


The Americans would never let you in


It's the same with China UnionPay [link]; Chinese media groups can't let foreigners in, so of course foreigners won't let the Chinese in.


Why bother, I say….if you'd succeeded, the world would be out yet another media with conscience heh……..

The sole comment on a NetEase Media page carrying the interview:


You want to buy up a free speech-practicing weekly and get it into guidance of public opinion? What a laugh.

Many more interesting comments on the Xiang Xi interview can be found at Tianya and HoopChina.

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