METI director announces cooperation policy

HONG KONG — Japan’s content industries must work with their Asian neighbors, the country’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry said Wednesday.

That was the subtext of a rare Japanese media policy announcement made not in Tokyo, but at a forum in Hong Kong.

Yasuhiro Maeda, METI director of the media and content industry division, said the ministry will launch a twin track policy, involving an “Asian Content Initiative” and a “Strategic Technology Initiative.”

Both were unveiled at a forum bringing together officials from Unijapan, the Hong Kong Film Development Council and the China Film Foundation and execs from Salon Films, Media Asia and Kadokawa.

Maeda was long on futuristic vision and distinctly short on policy specifics. He said Japan should learn lessons from the region’s most developed media economies, notably Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore.

Maeda also said Japanese companies should work more with the growing market in China and stressed that promotion and marketing skills add value by turning goods into brands.

Significantly, for a country which has often been feared in Asia as much as it has been admired, he spoke repeatedly of respect for other cultures and harnessing cultural diversity.

Li Qiankuan, chair of the China Film Foundation, said that Hong Kong should be a “springboard between China and the rest of the world,” while Wellington Fung, secretary general of the Film Development Council, forecast that the mainland China theatrical market could grow from 4 billion yuan ($580 million) in 2008 to $1.6 billion by 2011.

Tsuguhiko Kadokawa, chairman and CEO of the Kadokawa Group, which owns one of Hong Kong’s major movie distributors, concluded the proceedings on a collaborative note.

“The ideal filmmaking model combines Japanese ideas, Hong Kong capital and Asian faces,” he said.

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