February 12, 2022
Ms McLeod continues to be listed as a director of the company, and has been since 2011; company filings indicate she holds all the shares as of 2019.
Meridian Line’s films have been praised in Chinese state media, are broadcast on Chinese government channels as well as foreign networks, such as National Geographic, and remain available to stream for free via government websites.
One film – “World’s Biggest Birthday Party,” which celebrates the 70th anniversary of the ruling Communist Party in 2019 – was described by Chinese state media as “an international co-production,” listing CICC, National Geographic and Meridian Line as partners.
“China has a long history and rich culture that could spawn many inspirations for quality documentaries,” Ms Wang told state media in 2019 about the film. “Through cooperation with our US and British partners, we could make Chinese tales more appealing to overseas audiences.”
“China: Time of Xi” first aired in 2017 on Discovery Channel’s Asia arm and Chinese state television networks in 38 countries and regions, reaching hundreds of millions, according to a press release, just as a twice-a-decade Communist Party congress elevated Mr Xi’s authority to that of Chairman Mao.
Interviewees are high-profile, including former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Kerry Brown, director of the Lau China Institute at King’s College, London, and a former British diplomat in Beijing.
“The strategic thinking behind cooperation with foreign producers and with outlets like the Discovery Channel is to use existing avenues to reach broader foreign audiences,” said Mr Bandurski.
It also “helps project the illusion of distance between the Chinese state and the production process, such that the ‘independence’ of documentaries like China: Time of Xi can be taken seriously despite obvious alignment with state propaganda messages,” he wrote in a paper in 2018.
The Telegraph approached Meridian Line Films, Ms McLeod, Mr Forster, Ms Ochota, Mr Nguyen, National Geographic, Discovery Channel Asia Pacific and the CICC for comment.