China Mulls News Corp., AOL Time Warner Access

China is in negotiations to let News Corp. and AOL Time Warner broadcast directly to television audiences in limited parts of southern China, the government's broadcast authority said Wednesday. 

A deal would be contingent on the two companies ensuring wide access to the United States for CCTV-9, the English-language channel of China's main government-controlled television network, said a spokeswoman for the State General Administration of Radio, Film and Television.

If negotiations are successful, China intends to allow New York-based AOL and Sydney-based News Corp. to broadcast to households in parts of Guangdong, a booming southern province next to Hong Kong, the official said. She refused to be identified by name.

``We have agreed that they can broadcast in parts of Guangdong, but not all the province. There are limits,'' she said. ``We hope that the two companies will help us get CCTV-9 — the English channel — into the United States.''

A phone call to AOL Time Warner and News Corp. by The Associated Press after hours was not immediately returned.

Allowing one or both firms to broadcast direct to even limited Chinese audiences would be a breakthrough. China's communist government regards television as a vital propaganda tool and has largely succeeded in keeping tight control of its airwaves.

Foreign programming is aired widely on state-controlled television, particularly provincial and cable channels, and some foreign channels can be received in up-market hotels and luxury housing. But government regulations prohibit foreign broadcasters from reaching Chinese TV audiences directly, the spokeswoman said. AOL Time Warner and News Corp. would be the first to be allowed to do so, probably through cable, she said.

But she stressed that a precondition for the deal was ensuring that CCTV-9 reaches U.S. audiences.

American movies and TV programming have taught Chinese audiences a lot about the United States, and CCTV-9 could help teach Americans about China, the official said.

``Many Chinese understand the United States, but Americans don't know much about China,'' she said. ``This is not good for understanding between our countries.''

News Corp. is the parent company of the Fox News Channel, which operates