Edwin Maher

A quirk of fate brought Edwin Maher to China in 2003 and within nine months he had made history, becoming the first non-Asian face to read prime-time news on Chinese state TV.

A broadcast journalist for most of his working life, Maher was a highly recognised personality across networks of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) in Melbourne for more than 20 years. His unique presentation of the weather added to his fame.

Dark clouds

In late 1998, Maher’s career was interrupted when Maher’s wife Robyn was diagnosed with a brain tumour.  He left work to look after her and after she died two years later, a sudden change in the weather sowed the seeds for what would grow a big change in Maher’s life.

A new dawn

Maher’s Chinese adventure began with a six month contract as Voice Coach with the English service of China Radio International (CRI) but as foreigners who come to the Middle Kingdom soon discover, the country casts a spell which captivates even the most skeptical of visitors and sometimes offers them a new direction in life. This is how it was for Edwin Maher.

Near the end of his contract at CRI, Maher had been offered a job at China Central Television (CCTV) as Voice Coach of the English Channel CCTV9. He couldn’t resist, but when the time came to start work, his new employer wanted a change and added some unexpected duties to his role – reading the prime time 7 pm news, World Wide Watch. Maher became the first non-Asian face to front the program in March 2004.

His appearance was watched closely not only by Chinese, but by foreigners including a reporter for the LA Times who did a front-page story which generated controversy that Maher was a ‘mouthpiece’ for the Chinese government.  Their comments were countered by support from US commentators and in social media on the mainland who said it was ‘typical of Western coverage of China’ and that Maher had become the latest target.

At the time of the controversy, Hollywood actor David Duchovny expressed interest in making a movie about Maher’s story.

But as CCTV9 developed and changed its identity to CCTV News, the initial controversy passed and Maher continued anchoring alongside a passing parade of foreign faces whose appearances would generate far less controversy.  Unexpected awards and the offer of a Chinese Green Card followed.  Maher remained at CCTV for 13 years until stepping down in 2017 as CCTV News took on a new name under its latest banner, CGTN which stands for China Global Television Network.

The Amiable Anchor (the title of the My China story linked below) has written two books in China, My China Daily (Zhou Bu Zhao Bei) which typifies the hapless new foreigner getting lost and trying to learn the language, and his autobiography since coming to China, Caught on CCTV.

Maher is now taking his story as a speaker at a time when China is expanding its role as a major player in the world of international television news, alongside BBC, CNN, Al Jazeera and RT.  His presentation is peppered with video clips of highs and lows in the Beijing and Melbourne studios.

An inspiring story which shows that through the darkest times, a light – and new life – can appear when we least expect it.

Topic

Finding China and LovinIt

(the title borrowed from a McDonald’s slogan). A humorous presentation based on my first experiences as a hapless foreigner in China, getting lost and coming to terms with the culture.

This is the theme I have updated and developed during my 13 years in China, with special focus on being the first non Asian face to read prime time news on Chinese state TV.

My second book written in China provides a history of the English channel and stories of what goes on behind (as well as in front of) the camera. The stories are illustrated with video clips, not just from CCTV, but the ABC, where I presented the weather using a vast array of pointers sent in by viewers.

I also explain my other main media role, as Broadcast News Voice Coach. I have coached literally hundreds of Chinese and foreign staff in how to tell their stories, rather than just read them.

No matter whether ‘in house’ or “outside” the studio, this allows me to interact with a general audience to show them the techniques of improving their vocal delivery, especially if they have to give presentations.

I hope my story can inspire others who may have found themselves in a dark place through personal loss (like me) or for some other reason, and find a new life no matter how difficult the challenge may seem.

Testimonials

An excellent presentation, providing our staff with new skills for interacting in English.

~ Zhu Yan,HR, Wanda

Thank you Edwin. Many in our group (myself included) have spoken English for many years, but didn’t realise how easily we could improve not just our delivery, but expand the range of our voices.

~Yang Fei, Distributor, Amway

Frank-Jürgen Richter

Globalization & Emerging Countries

Vijay V. Vaitheeswaran

Need, Speed and Greed

Mark Rowswell (DaShan) 大山

The most famous foreigner in China