Age Feb 14, 1995

Beijing has rebuffed the News Corporation chairman’s advances ever since his September 1993 speech where he bragged that satellite television threatened “totalitarian regimes everywhere”.

One month after Mr Murdoch uttered those words, Beijing banned the reception of foreign broadcasts and strictly limited ownership of satellite dishes.

The head of the tournament organising committee, Mr Li Ruqin, confirmed that a foreign company which he could not name had “cooperated” in developing the television centre.

In doing so, however, the sources say News Corp may have further angered China’s authorities by trying to go behind their backs at a time when Beijing expressly forbids foreign investment in media.

Tianjin officials stress that the News Corp involvement only comprises the provision of equipment and technical assistance and is not a joint venture. However, the talk in Beijing is that News Corp officials speak of having taken a “stake” in the broadcaster.

Tianjin has nine million people, making it China’s third biggest city.

News Corp emissaries are also said to be trying to secure a deal with the Communist Party’s official mouthpiece, The People’s Daily.

Analysts say the success of News Corp’s 64 per cent owned Star TV network, depends on greater access to Chinese viewers and that in turn requires official acquiescence. Mr Murdoch bought his controlling stake in Star for $US525 million in July 1993.

Since his gaffe later that year, Mr Murdoch has been trying to repair the damage.

In April 1994, Star dumped BBC World Service Television from its schedule after coming under fire from Beijing for screening an unflattering documentary about the late Chairman Mao Zedong.

In May, Star dropped the MTV channel and replaced it with a more Asian-style version featuring many Chinese songs.

In July, Star bought the international rights to televise live Chinese soccer matches. And last month, Star announced it had teamed up with China’s main TV network, CCTV, to broadcast live a variety show to mark Chinese New Year.

Mr Murdoch has also been actively courting two of the children of the senior leader, Mr Deng Xiaoping.

Mr Murdoch’s publishing arm, HarperCollins bought the English translation rights to the book, My Father Deng Xiaoping, by his daughter and personal assistant, Ms Deng Rong.

Mr Murdoch is also the major sponsor for a trip to Australia and New Zealand by a 50-strong delegation of disabled amateur performers led by Mr Deng Pufang, Mr Deng’s eldest son.