CGTN America Looks to Cultivate American Viewers (Panel)

 Elaine Reyes leads a sponsored panel session at The Business of TV News on May 2. .
Elaine Reyes leads a sponsored panel session at The Business of TV News on May 2. .

The implementation of AI technology, climate change, and international cuisine were a few topics touched upon by the CGTN America network’s on-air hosts during a panel discussion at Thursday’s The Business of TV News conference.

The network, the U.S. arm of the Beijing-based China Global Television Network, is looking to reach American viewers with news and public affairs originating from China. Network personality Sean Callebs acknowledged the challenge of getting American viewers to watch and trust content from the country.

“We have challenges getting people to watch us — I think that’s kind of obvious,” he said. “Everything we’ve ever done is out there in public.”

Along with distribution issues, panelists said the network also faces challenges similar to U.S.-based news networks, including the emergence of artificial intelligence to enhance the creation and distribution of content. The panelists admitted to finding AI technology useful, but it is not rushing into everyday implementation of the technology.

Panel moderator and on-air contributor Elaine Reyes said she uses AI to help clean up various elements of a show. “If I’m outside doing a standup and we have to clean some of the audio out and take some of the honks out of the honking in the background for some of our feature shows, we can use that,” she said.

AI is also helpful in creating translations for the network’s shows. Callebs compared CGTN to a “dragon with seven heads,” with the news sitting in the belly that gets distributed via multiple languages, including English, Mandarin, Arabic and Spanish. “We use AI for translation quite a bit; to get it done quickly for transcripts,” he said.

Yet, with the potential benefits of AI, Callebs said China is moving ahead “very carefully and very slowly.” Panelist Gerald Tan added that China has laid a lot of the early framework for the regulations governing AI in terms of the creation of images, chatbots and other uses. “As that becomes more integrated in the technology that is being created, AI is going out around the world,” he said. “It is affecting all of us in that sense.”

On the programming side, the network has created what it calls the Global Action Initiative, which examines the impact of climate change of society. “The way we devise these shows is to not just talk about policy — which is important — but we want to focus on the nuts and bolts. Let’s say collective versus individual responsibility,” said on-air host Atirath Aich.

The network also delves into the lifestyles genre through such series as Tso'l Food, which looks at the various incarnations of Chinese food dishes that have been adapted to cater to the palettes of local communities around the world. Tan, the host, said it was inspired by General Tso's Chicken, a dish he had never known about until he came to the States.

“It’s actually been really fascinating just traveling around the country and learning about interesting dishes that only exist here in America,” Tan said. “We’re really basically using food as a lens to get into the deepest stories of migration and resilience and innovation.”