Chinese state TV obscures maskless crowd in World Cup broadcast


Amid rare anti-government protests in China in response to “zero-Covid” restrictions, soccer fans on social media were quick to point out the unusual quality of the World Cup broadcast on state television: they showed little footage of the crowd.

Examining CCTV coverage, by no means exhaustive, in comparison to the official FIFA World Cup stream, other international broadcasts and past CCTV World Cup broadcasts suggests that online observers may have a point: while other international broadcasts focus on audience and atmosphere CCTV, China’s state broadcaster, seems to be doing the exact opposite, with its cameras glued to the field, they emphasize.

The World Cup, which attracts more than half a billion viewers in China, comes at an awkward time for Beijing’s censorship apparatus as protesters challenge Chinese President Xi Jinping’s signature coronavirus policies. Supporters have speculated that the government is hoping to draw attention to the unmasked spectators from around the world who have gathered in Qatar, which have largely escaped coronavirus precautions, even as the virus continues to spread.

China is struggling with a large wave of new coronavirus cases, driven in part by highly contagious strains and low rates of natural immunity. China continues to close its borders and impose mask orders, quarantines and other unpopular restrictions in an ongoing effort to eradicate the virus entirely, an approach abandoned elsewhere.

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Meanwhile, in Qatar, a different reality is evident as fans celebrate their teams, seemingly oblivious to Covid.

These different scenes are a direct challenge to Xi’s power, Xiao said Kiang, A research scientist at the School of Information at the University of California at Berkeley and editor-in-chief of China Digital Times, a bilingual news site.

Chinese officials are “telling people that outside China people are dying massively, they can’t deal with the virus” and “what we are doing is the only right way,” Qiang said. So when people see a different reality at the World Cup and compare it to their own situation, perhaps in quarantine, it can cause resentment, he said.

On Chinese social media, side-by-side videos comparing World Cup coverage have been widely shared, fueling frustration and speculation.

“This time the CCTV footage is often weird,” wrote one user on Weibo, a popular social media platform in China, according to a translation by the Wall Street Journal. For example, slow-motion movies don’t play completely, angles aren’t comprehensive, shots of empty landscapes appear for no good reason. When they cut to distant shots and landscapes, what are they hiding in reality? “I’m just curious.”

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Some viewers commented on the night and day difference between living in China and Qatar.

None of the fans wore masks and no one was asked to show a nucleic acid test certificate. Do we even live on the same planet as them? Can’t Covid-19 harm them?” A user on WeChat, a popular messaging app, asked before the account was suspended, China Digital Times reported.

While unmasked spectators can still be seen on CCTV coverage, which can only be streamed from Chinese IP addresses, the cameras appear to be lagging, Mark Dreyer, director of the China Sports Insider website, noted. They prevent between spectators.

I’ve literally just spent the last two hours watching parallel feeds of the Brazil and Switzerland game and there were forty-two times the CCTV refused to show a close-up of the spectators/fans. Dreyer tweeted on November 28. At the start of the game, I saw a spectator up close on the CCTV (former Brazilian players).

Neither CCTV nor Chinese officials have spoken publicly about the cover-up. CCTV did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The website What’s on Weibo, an article about public frustration in a Communist Party newspaper on Tuesday, noted the relative lack of face coverings at the World Cup – but said masks were still needed in China, in part because of the number Relatively few hospital beds in this country, What’s on Weibo website. It has been reported.

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China’s state-run broadcaster has a long history of censoring political symbols, statements and people, including in international sports, deemed dangerous to the ruling Communist Party.

Last year, China blocked access to current and archived Boston Celtics games after a player accused the Chinese government of “cultural genocide” in Tibet. Last year, the NBA issued a public apology to China after a Houston Rockets player spoke out in favor of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests, prompting Beijing to ban live streaming of the team’s games.

Qiang said the World Cup is particularly important to Chinese people because it was one of the first matches people watched in the 1980s when the country opened up to the international community.

This year, he said, as millions of people in China remain indoors and under surveillance, the Games have created a divide between China and the rest of the world. In this context, anything will cause the Chinese people to react.”


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