Television in China

Get to grips with TV standards and find out what's available to the TV viewer in China...

Television Standard

China is transitioning to an all-digital broadcasting system over the years 2015 - 2018.

Most other countries in the world have either switched over, are switching over, or plan to switch over from analogue TV broadcasting to digital TV broadcasting. Before the advent of digital broadcasting, the main three standards were:

  • NTSC: the USA, Canada, Japan
  • PAL: most of Western Europe, Australasia and South Africa
  • SECAM: France, Africa and Eastern Europe

Today, the main digital standards are:

  • DVB-T: most of the world, including Europe, southern Africa, Australia and southern Asia
  • ATSC: the USA, Canada, Mexico and South Korea
  • ISDB-T: most of South America
  • DTMB: China

The systems are not compatible, so a television produced for one system will generally not work on another. Digital set-top boxes are available for people still using analogue TVs. However, these only work within one set of standards, so an analogue set brought into another region may still not work with a set-top box.

Television Services

State television provider

There is no television licence in China. The main television company in China is the state broadcaster CCTV (China Central Television or Chinese Central Television). Many types of programmes, including news, soap operas, documentaries, comedy, drama and entertainment, are shown on its many channels. Most of its programmes are in Mandarin. The company is part of the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television, which takes responsibility for ensuring that the programmes aired do not offend the Chinese government or the country's cultural standards. The company runs an international channel, CCTV-News, which delivers its programmes in English.

Regional television

There are also a number of regional television stations. Some provide programmes, particularly news coverage, in English. Further English programmes are also available via satellite.

There are a number of satellite providers offering a range of television services; however the legality of these is a grey area.

Cable and satellite television may be available in apartments, and the cost can be included in the rent. Local cable television is also available and decoder boxes can be bought from local cable providers. The monthly fee for cable television is generally paid direct from the subscriber's local bank account.

Some cable and satellite television provider are:

  • OCN: Cable provider providing a wide variety of international channels
  • HBOCN: International satellite television for expats with channels in various languages including English, French, Russian and Japanese
  • Dream TV: Satellite package providing over 37 international channels.

Web-based television

China Network Television (CNTV) is a national broadcaster in China. It is an online service which provides users with global services available in a number of languages.