Time for Taiwan to develop its entertainment industry: The China Post

With the exception of tourism shows presented by Taiwanese-American celebrity Janet Hsieh, Taiwan does not make shows that could resonate with our Asian neighbours. PHOTO: HBO ASIA

In its editorial on March 27, the paper argues that Taiwan's inability to produce programmes that appeal to its Asian neighbours will ultimately result in the eradication of the island's entertainment industry .

TAIPEI (THE CHINA POST/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - While the rest of Asia has started to consolidate their resources in entertainment and to cooperate in broadcasting their programmes with each other, Taiwan has decided to either stick with reruns of old local programmes, make new shows that are only appealing to ourselves, or simply pay to view programmes made by China, Korea and Japan without being a part of the opportunity ourselves.

Currently, countries such as Malaysia and Singapore can receive channels direct from the United States, Korea and Japan through internet and satellite, airing such things as American live sports games or the latest episode of Korean variety game shows without requiring their subscribers to wait.

As a result of such a surge in audience demand, various multimedia conglomerates like America's Scripps Networks Interactive have even decided to accelerate the expansion of a regional headquarters in Singapore in order to broadcast their programmes to Asia. They've even gone to the extent of creating Asian versions of channels and programmes that are tailored to the region's audiences, like Home Box Office Asia and the Asian Food Channel.

With this success have come opportunities, and most Asian countries have started to partner with one another to capitalise by creating programmes that could be mutually understood and well-received.

For example, HBO's Asia division has produced many original series tailored for greater Asia, while Comedy Central now features comedy shows and stand-up by English-speaking Asian comics. The Food Network went as far as to develop tourism programmes with many Asian countries through their local subsidiary, the Asian Food Channel, as a mean to further advance its business opportunities by connecting Asia together. Even Korea's channel KBS have set up regional specific subsidiaries to penetrate the markets of countries like Japan and Indonesia.

While the rest of Asia has started to work together to make money and share their cultures and ideals, Taiwan has joined in only on the receiving end of the opportunity - paying to watch the programmes without being a part of the movement.

Even though popular internet video service Netflix is now available in Taiwan, we still prefer to make programmes that tailor to our own demographic. And when we do watch programmes from other parts of Asia, we only choose the ones from China, Korea and Japan, opting to pay them to make more, when the same countries are not extending the same kind of appreciation that we are showing them.

We only have ourselves to blame. With the exception of tourism shows presented by Taiwanese-American celebrity Janet Hsieh, Taiwan does not make shows that could resonate with our Asian neighbours. As a result, while we give more money to everyone else to improve, we are not developing our own industry, which forces us to consistently cut the budget of our shows, resulting in a gradual but constant lowering of our production quality.

While countries like Korea and Japan rake in profits by spending money to improve the visual quality of their shows and recruiting recognisable A-list celebrities to participate in fun and entertaining games, Taiwan continues to hire B-list local comedians to dominate our screens, participating in ridiculous and repetitive tasks.

The lack of recognition of these B-list comedians and the Taiwan-specific content are all elements which discourage other parts of Asia from wanting to buy our shows, never mind cooperate on a multinational variety show production.

And in the case of television dramas, our low-quality productions pale in comparison to other Asian countries. This is shown clearly through the low ratings consistently received on Netflix.

This bad cycle of spending little to make low-quality programmes will ultimately eradicate our entertainment industry, which would truly be sad, considering that Taiwan used to be the thriving hub of Chinese-language television for communities around the world.

The China Post is a member of The Straits Times media partner Asia News Network, an alliance of 22 news media entities.

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