New Internationalist

Boxed in

Issue 371

Entries from the diary of a Beijing television addict.

Switched-on sales The première of Lycra My Show. Contestants warbling away for the million renminbi ($120,000) prize… all togged out in sporty stretchy lycra. You’ve got to hand it to the producers: they’re companies who’ve discovered that making programmes and giving them to a lot of cash-strapped TV stations is cheaper and more effective than paying for thousands of 30-second advertising spaces. This one’s produced and funded by Universal Music, the Shanghai Media Group and the Lycra brand of US fabric company Invista, along with co-sponsors Coca-Cola and Sony Ericsson. And their products are in your face for the whole show. Actually, once you get used to it, that lycra stuff starts to look pretty good…1

Hidden messages

How stupid do they think we are! Over 500,000 people marched in the streets of Hong Kong today demanding direct elections and more autonomy in government. But do I see it on TV? No! They can’t stop me from finding out, though. All I have to do is read the international papers on the internet. For this story, at least. There are a lot of other street marches in China, protesting things like meagre pensions or the forcible loss of land, that I don’t get to see and which aren’t covered by the international press. That’s entertainment!

A foreign affair

Foreign films are really popular. The oldies like the Korean soaps… different lifestyles, no communist legacy, but still close to Chinese family values. As for young Beijingers… Farewell Vancouver was really big with us this year. It’s a mini-series about young Chinese people who are living and studying in Canada. But it also talked about current issues in China… like corrupt officials sending their children to other countries with the money they’ve ripped off from the Government. As for Canada… it’s a window to a different way of life. So exotic!

China is the biggest market place in the world for advertisers. 98% of families own television sets. There are nearly 2,200 TV channels. More than 1.17 billion people watch TV.
  1. GA Fowler, ‘Switched On For A Hard Sell’, in Far Eastern Economic Review, 3 June 2004.
  2. China Radio, Film & Television Programs Exchanging Center –

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This article was originally published in issue 371

New Internationalist Magazine issue 371
Issue 371

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New Internationalist Magazine Issue 436

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