The changing face of Chinese media is one that looks increasingly familiar to Western eyes. But it will be some time before it is one that is fully open to outside investors.

That was the message yesterday from Li Ruigang, the youthful president and CEO of the newly amalgamated Shanghai Media and Entertainment Group (SMEG), attending Cannes' MIP-TV for the first time.

The SMEG behemoth was formed late last year by the merger of 11 TV channels, ten radio stations, a large cable network, the Shanghai film and TV festivals, Shanghai film studios and distribution assets. These included 52 cinemas in the fast-expanding Shanghai city area.

"It is normal that we have limits [on foreign media ownership]. Plenty of other countries do. The West will have to learn to be patient," said Li, answering inevitable questions about the post-WTO opening up of the Chinese media market.

Li's ambitions seem to be prioritised on first building a converged conglomerate that is powerful enough to withstand outside competition when it comes, and to become a credible nationwide competitor to state-owned broadcast giant CCTV.

While he said that "programme making is the core business of SMEG," he was already able to boast of distribution to a potential 3.5 million fibre-optic cabled homes and interactive services which he reckoned could reach 500,000 subscribers within three years.

"We aim to become a major international Chinese video and audio programme production centre' and a major international exchange of Chinese programmes," said Li. Including the output of the Shanghai studios, SMEG currently produces 20 feature films a year and some 1,000 episodes of TV drama.

Li said that although his group is currently subject to a 25% limit on imported content, SMEG is looking to move beyond project-by-project co-operation with foreign production and distribution players. "We are now in negotiations that we hope will lead to a long-term partnership," he said.