In 2014, the combination of political and economic pressures threatened the quality and market positions of two influential liberal publications, accoring to Freedom House.
In January, Beijing’s municipal propaganda department purchased a 49 percent stake in the Beijing News, supplementing an existing ownership stake held by a party mouthpiece, the Guangming Daily. The move increased direct official control over the paper, and some observers described it as a blow against the process of media commercialization. Separately, in the wake of a January 2013 strike by journalists and related public protests against censorship at the Southern Weekly, numerous editors and journalists have left the publication, disillusioned by the continuation of heightened censorship. These changes have decreased the prevalence and quality of the paper’s investigative stories, reportedly reducing its influence among elite readers and its attractiveness to advertisers.
However, as Freedom House highlights, most media revenue in China comes from advertising and subscriptions rather than government subsidies, even for many party papers. Some observers argue that commercialization has shifted the media’s loyalty from the party to the consumer, leading to tabloid-style and sometimes more daring reporting. Others note that the reforms have opened the door for economic incentives that serve to reinforce political pressure and self-censorship.
Source: Freedom of the Press Index 2015 – China