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Bloomberg hints at curb on articles about China

The chairman of Bloomberg said in a speech on Thursday that the company should have reconsidered articles that deviated from its core of coverage of business news, because they jeopardized the huge sales potential for its products in the Chinese market.

The comments by the chairman, Peter T. Grauer, represented the starkest acknowledgment yet by a senior Bloomberg executive that the ambitions of the news division should be assessed in the context of the business operation, which provides the bulk of the company's revenue. They also signaled which of those considerations might get priority.

(Read more: Fresh worries over China prompt slew of downgrades)

Acknowledging the vast size of the Chinese economy, the world's second-biggest after that of the United States, Mr. Grauer, said, "We have to be there."

"We have about 50 journalists in the market, primarily writing stories about the local business and economic environment," Mr. Grauer said in response to questions after a speech at the Asia Society. "You're all aware that every once in a while we wander a little bit away from that and write stories that we probably may have kind of rethought — should have rethought."

Photographer | CNBC

Bloomberg, the financial data and news company, relies on sales of its terminals, which are ubiquitous on bankers' desks around the world, for about 82 percent of its $8.5 billion in revenue. But sales of those terminals in China declined after the company published an article in June 2012 on the family wealth of Xi Jinping, at that time the incoming Communist Party chief. After its publication, officials ordered state enterprises not to subscribe to the service. Mr. Grauer did not specifically mention the article about Mr. Xi or any other articles.

Mr. Grauer's comments on Bloomberg's journalistic priorities in China reflect what some Bloomberg employees say is a re-emphasis on financial news, and skepticism from the business side about whether investigative journalism is worth the potential problems it could create for terminal sales.

A Bloomberg spokesman in New York said the company would have no comment on Mr. Grauer's remarks.

(Read more: China's debt problems are bad, but not Lehman bad)

A day earlier, Justin B. Smith, the chief executive of the Bloomberg Media Group, outlined an ambitious growth strategy for the news unit that would require expansion and increased investment. In a memorandum posted on the website Medium, he wrote: "Bloomberg Media is setting out to build a leading digitally led, multiplatform media company for global business. We want to become the indispensable source of information for the world's most influential people."

Bloomberg, controlled by the billionaire Michael R. Bloomberg, who returned to the company at the beginning of this year after 12 years as mayor of New York City, employs about 125 people in mainland China across its businesses, which also include providing data about the country's currency and bond futures markets.

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