1. Discuss the Similarities and Differences between China and UK TV IndustriesIntroductionDiscussing media and its various aspects can be a daunting task, especially when the televisionindustry is involved. In the modern era, we all live in what McLuhan terms a ‘global village’, aspace in which it is possible for every person to contact others via various communication mediairrespective of location (McLuhan and Powers, 1992). Media has been defined as a messagecarrier – carrying or transferring messages between senders and receivers, or between externalenvironments and audiences (Littlejohn, 2002). Meyrowitz (1993) insists that media is channel,language and environment. But what does the term ‘media’ mean exactly? To date, there is noone or simple definition (Littlejohn, 2002). Television (TV) is a form of mass media that helps totransport communication openly and at a distance to many receivers within a short space of time.According to Lu (1999), Peng (2004) and Zhou (2004), in a narrow sense television is asubsidiary industry appertaining to the entire media industry as well as the industrial clustercomprising the corporations or organizations participating in investing, producing, selling,transmitting or broadcasting and investigating television information or programmes, and therelationship between them in the market.This paper deals with various aspects of the Chinese and the United Kingdom (UK) televisionindustries and enumerates the similarities and differences between them. Television hasoverpowered most other forms of communication and mass media and it has reached a hugenumber of audiences of the years. However, there are glaring differences and similaritiesbetween Chinese and UK TV industries. The following sections of this paper deal with thehistory and development of TV industry in China and UK, to the media philosophy in the twocountries and the current scenario of the TV industry prevalent in the two countries.Motivation behind Comparing China and UK TV IndustriesThe reason behind comparing China and UK TV industries is to showcase the culture and controlof the government over mass media in the two countries. Though the two countries are situatedin two extremes of the world, yet, there are certain similarities in the way people perceive
2. television. China and the United Kingdom (UK) have totally different cultures but yet there aresome unique similarities and several dissimilarities between the TV industries in the twocountries. Comparing China and UK helps us to perceive the extreme differences in culture andgovernment control over media in the two countries. It also helps us understand the spread of TVand its importance in today’s world. Though the advent of the TV industry in China was latecompared to UK, yet, it soon became one of the most popular industries in China (McKenzie,2006). Over the years China’s media industry has boomed and overtaken most other countriesincluding UK. China has more internet users and is the largest country on the internet. Today,China’s largest creative industry is Television (TV) and it has spread to over 400m TV homeswith over 2000 channels (UK Trade and Investment, 2004).On the other hand, the spread of TV in UK homes has also been significant. Television spreadinto UK homes between 1950s and the 1970s. In 1957, 7 million out of 15.8 million homes in theUK had a TV. By 1978, of the 20 million homes, 19.5 million had a TV (Hilmes, 2003). Thereach and extent of television in imparting news and entertainment has been overpowering inboth UK and China and it is for this reason that these two countries have been selected forcomparison.History of China and UK TV IndustriesTelevision (TV) started way back in 1831 when Michael Faraday, for the first time, discoveredelectromagnetic induction and developed the theory behind TV (Thompson, 1990). Thetelevision industry in China experienced fifty years of development since its inception in 1958.Over the past five decades, China’s television industry experienced major alterations with thedevelopment of Chinese politics, economy and Chinese society. On the other hand, in UK,television started around the 1930s, but at that time, television was hardly a promisingentertainment prospect (Curie, 2004).
3. The political influence over UK television industry was not that prevalent when it started in the1930s. However, in stark difference, China TV industry has always been under politicalinfluence. The first period of TV in China was also known as Naissance and it started with theexperimental broadcast of Beijing Television Station, China’s first television station, on 1st ofMay, 1958. The station broadcast for twenty years until the reform and opening up of China in1978 but during this time all television stations were non-profit institutional units (Yang, 1999).Television in China was deemed only to belong to the political (or ideological) institution. It wasviewed as part of Chinese socialism, a tool used to disseminate political propaganda – to educatethe general public across the country – and the mouthpiece of the Party, the government and thepeople (Keane, Fung and Moran, 2007).In UK, the first television show was aired by BBC in 1930, called the National and Regionalscheme for radio as it was simple synchronization of sound and vision. Public televisionbroadcasting started in UK in 1936 with BBC analogue terrestrial transmission VHF. The firstofficial broadcast was in 1929 (Wheatley, ). The working class generation of UK, viewed the TVas a source of entertainment and this is also similar with the way the Chinese crowd first
4. perceived the television. China’s reform and opening up policy started towards the end of the1970s brought rapid economic progress as well as considerable changes to its political, culturaland social fields. Television in China no longer could be seen as having only a single political (orideological) attribute under the socialist command economy system. Rather, it gradually becameendowed with dual attributes, i.e. political (or ideological) and economic (or industrial) (Lin,2002; Wen, 2002).According to A. Smith (1995), television caught on in the UK, but its expansion was slow, as till1951 only 9 percent of British homes owned a TV. However, UK was the first country tointroduce regular TV programs (Smith, 1995). So, more or less, TV started in UK much earliercompared to China but these days both these countries have a fair share of audience who watchtelevision regularly.China and UK TV Broadcasting SystemIn the initial stage of television development, television firms were confronted with the difficultyof finding an efficient means of gaining profit through broadcasting TV programmes. At thetime, there was no feasible approach to ascertain whether audiences who accessed televisionbroadcasting services should be charged for them. This is because in the interests of the commongood, its price and supplied quantity were determined by a matching supply and demand in thenormal market. Thus for television commodities in the early days, there was no availableapproach for audiences to deliver their demands and preferences to television producers (Doyle,2002b).The China television industry started off under a socialist command economy system but overthe years it has grown into a complete system with high-tech program production, transmissionand coverage. Today, China Central Television (CCT) has developed into one of the mostpowerful national television channel around the world and it has also established business withover two hundred and fifty television organizations in over one hundred and thirty nations andregions around the world (McQuail, 2005). However, China broadcasting of programmes is stilllargely controlled by the government. As Schramm (1984, quoted in Shen, 2004) claims, mediaare always controlled by multifarious forces. In China, most programmes have to be screened by
5. the government before they can be broadcasted. Even news channels are not allowed toshowcase news freely.Compared to Chinese control over the broadcasting of events, UK TV industry enjoyed fairamount of discretion in broadcasting all kinds of events without any actual government control.It was only in 1937 that the UK government decided to discontinue the first Baird system ofbroadcasting TV in favour of the Marconi-EMIs electronic system which gave a far superiorpicture (Burns, 1998) and it also allowed the population to enjoy all kinds of programmes.TV broadcasts in London were on the air an average of four hours daily from 1936 to 1939 andthis continued for a long time. On special occasions restaurants and bars had more than 100viewers for sport events (Abramson, 1987). Today, UK enjoys over a thousand channels andbroadcasters showcase news, entertainments and sports events throughout the day. TV hasbecome an integral part of the UK life.China and UK Media PhilosophySince Mao’s Communist Party took over China in 1949, the Chinese TV industry has found ithard to place a grip on the free transmission of information and entertainment. The communistparty held a monopoly over all power and resources including press and television. China mediaphilosophy has been largely guarded by the state and only in the late 1970s when economicreforms took place in China, did the TV industry and media open up a bit (Hong, 1998).Substantial changes have taken place since 1970 and today there are several broadcastingchannels in China but still media is considered the ideological apparatus of the state. Todaymedia is often caught in deep-seated contradictions between political control by the Party andincreasing commercialization of the financial structures and this has resulted in a two waysystem in the media industry (Ma, 2000; Zhao, 1998). Firstly, the media has to serve theCommunist party, while at the same time they also have to cater to the needs of the audience.Ever since China entered the World Trade Organization, Chinese media philosophy has alteredto allow inter-media and trans-regional media groups so that China can maintain competitionwith foreign media groups.
6. UK media philosophy on the other hand believes in freedom of speech and expression. Themedia is free to disseminate all sorts of information in UK and the government has no controlover it. Further, in UK, media is developed in all fronts, be it Print media, Internet or theTelevision and Radio. However, in China, TV and other media forms are still developing andthere are not many shows to be broadcasted. Radio and BBC have been present in UK forgenerations but Radio is not that popular in China (Zhou, 2004). The UK media is mainlydominated by the print media and the internet. There are several magazines too that are printedweekly or daily. People in UK are concerned about the developments in the government and theytake a keen interest in various aspects of life. UK media philosophy allows easier disseminationof information compared to China. In UK, freedom of speech and expression is enjoyed by thecitizens and they can watch any news from any part of the world. However, this is not allowed inChina (Curie, 2004). In China, TV viewers have restricted access to world channels.Control and Regulation of TV Industry in China and UKMcQuail (2005) observes that most media belong to one of three categories of ownership: (1)commercial companies; (2) private non-profit bodies; and (3) the public sector. In the UnitedKingdom (UK), TV industry is regulated by Ofcom. Ofcom is an independent regulator thatcontrols all forms of communication. Ofcom makes sure that all channels adhere by theBroadcast Code that came into effect on 25th July 2005. Most of the rules guide how advertisingis to be maintained and how complaints are to be filed by viewers. They also control thelicensing of portions of the spectrum for television broadcasting.Recently, Ofcom formed the Committee for Advertising Practice (CAP) to maintain the codes ofpractice governing television advertising. This body mainly regulates compliance of progammesand advertising, political and controversial issues as well as various other issues related to lawand order (Lecomte & Scriven, 1999). The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) is anotherindependent body that deals with complaints relating to the advertising industry. These bodiesare not funded by the government and thus it shows that the government does not have muchcontrol over regulation of the TV industry in UK.On the other hand, television censorship and control in China is conducted by the StateAdministration of Radio, Film, and Television. Further, receiving signals in China without
7. permission of the government is against the law of China. There have been several occasionswhen Hong Kong SAR news broadcast was banned in China and even CNN have to pass througha regulatory Chinese controlled satellite before they can broadcast their news in China. ChineseTV is largely controlled by the governed but nowadays, enforcement in television censorship isincreasingly getting difficult and ineffective with the advent of satellite signal hacking systems(Lu, 1999). Compared to the UK TV industry, China government exercises a far greater controlover what is being broadcast over the TV.Current TV Industry Scenario in China and UKChina launched its first television-broadcast satellite in 1986 and ever since the TV industry hasmoved ahead making tremendous progress (Lu, 1999). China Central Television (CCTV) is incontrol of managing China’s television programs. Today, there are around 3,000 televisionstations across mainland China which showcases different types of programs. There are alsoseveral large international TV expositions, such as the Shanghai Television Festival and theBeijing International Television Week which occurs frequently in China (Zhou, 2004). Some ofthe free to air television channels in China include Anhui Satellite Television, Bingtuan SatelliteTelevision, Beijing Satellite Television, CCTV, Chongqing Satellite Television, Gansu SatelliteTelevision and several others. CCTV produces its own news broadcasts three times a day and isChina’s most successful television producer. In the evening CCTV broadcasts a thirty-minuteevening news that is called Xinwen Lianbo (News Simulcast), which is a very popular showamongst the citizens of China. Focus is another popular discussion programme that regularlyexposes the wrongdoings of local officials is a major hit in China. CCTV’s New Year Galaprogramme is the most successful show in the history of CCTV. CCTV is also regulated by theState Administration of Radio, Film and Television which has been in control since the inceptionof the media industry (Lu, 1999). CCTV is the oldest and most reliable TV producer and that iswhy they receive maximum audience though recently its viewership went down and CCTVreceived only about 30% of audience share all over the national territory due to the biasedChinese viewers who favored local TV programs compared to national or even internationalprograms (Hong, 1998). Recently, in China there has been an onslaught of Singing competition
8. shows and other reality shows that allows several participants to fight on screen. This has vastlychanged the viewership of China and increased the popularity of TV in China (Zhou, 2004).Compared to this in UK, the TV industry has undergone major changes. Some of the major TVproviders in UK are Analogue Terrestrial, BT Vision, Freesat, Sky TV, Virgin and others.Analogue Terrestrial has up to 6 channels while Sky TV showcases over 300 radio and TVbroadcasting channels. Sky TV enjoys maximum viewership and though there are several localproviders, such as T-Mobile and Vodafone, who have sprung up into the TV scene, but, Sky TVstill remains the dominant market player in the TV industry in UK. Compared to China, UKenjoys several different kinds of transmission such as satellite television, cable television,internet television as well as IP television and mobile television (Curie, 2004). Some of the mostfavored programmes in UK include Fawlty Towers, Doctor Who, Brideshead Revisited and BluePeter. The media coverage in UK is much higher compared to China and it is not so strictlyregulated by the government. However, with the advent of internet, even China internettelevision has boomed in recent years (McKenzine, 2006).ConclusionFrom the time the television industry emerged in the last century, its process of development hasdiffered from other media industries in certain economic respects. Television firms andorganizations have experienced various difficulties throughout the development process of thetelevision industry, notably the number of market failures that have constantly beset televisionbroadcasting (Donald, Keane & Hing, 2003). From the above discussion it is clearly evident thatthere are a lot of differences in the way TV industry operates in China and UK. The glaringdifferences are evident when we see that the government controls the China TV industryvehemently and cuts down several broadcasts, while the UK TV industry has to follow thegeneral norms of freedom of speech and expression.From this paper it can be concluded that though China and UK differ largely in culture andpopulation. Yet, there are certain similarities in the TV industry in both the countries.Dissemination of information and news is the most important broadcasting programme in boththe countries and national events such as the Gala New Year festival in China and the World Cupin UK drew maximum audience to the screen. Apart from this, UK and China have vastly
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