Much of the surprising diversity in the Chinese media is attributable to the fact that most state media outlets no longer receive large government subsidies and are expected to largely pay for themselves through commercial advertising. As a result, they can no longer serve as solely mouthpieces for the government but must also produce programming that people find attractive and interested so that money can be generated through advertising revenue. In addition, while the government does issue directives defining what can and cannot be published, it does not prevent, and in fact actively encourages state media outlets to compete with each other for viewers and commercial advertising.
Government control of information can also be ineffective in other ways. Despite government restrictions, much information is gathered either at the local level or from foreign sources and passed on through personal conversations and short text messaging. The withdrawal of government media subsidies has caused many newspapers (including some owned by the Communist Party) in tabloid to take bold editorial stands critical of the government, as the necessity to attract readers and avoid bankruptcy has been a more pressing fear than government repression.
In addition, the traditional means of media control have proven extremely ineffective against newer forms of communication, most notably short text messaging.
Although the government can and does used laws against state secrets to censor press reports about social and political conditions, these laws have not prevented the press from all discussion of Chinese social issues. Chinese newspapers have been particularly affected by the loss of government subsidies, and have been especially active at gaining readership though must engaging in hard hitting investigative reporting and muckraking. As a result even papers which are nominally owned by the Communist Party are sometimes very bold at reporting social issues, as the fear of bankruptcy is more pressing than the fear of government censorship. However both commercial pressures and government restrictions have tended to cause newspapers to focus on lurid scandals often involving local officials who have relatively little political cover, and Chinese news papers tend to lack in depth analysis of political events as this tends to be more political sensitive.
Among social issues first reported in the Chinese press include the AIDS epidemic in Henan province, the unsafe state of Chinese mines. In addition, the SARS coverup was first blown by a fax to CCTV which was forwarded to Western news media.