So’s advice to the West

Secretary for Broadcasting James So offered some no-nonsense advice to foreign broadcasters seeking to enter the Asian region at the AIC Pan Asian Satellite and Cable TV Broadcasting conference this week.

He said that there was need for some to understand “the factors beneath the surface” in order to build their relationships with governments in the region.

Without referring to any particular broadcasters, So said that many people come into the region expecting things to be done the same as in the West.

“It’s true the East is more economically dynamic than the West, leading Westerners to come in expecting a social dynamism to match it.

“Sure we’re economically dynamic, but we’re more buttoned-up in our society, more reticent, prim and proper.

“There are oblique and indirect ways of handling matters,” he said in a reference to Asian disdain for confrontation.

So also claimed too much is made of the Asian inscrutability and the myth of “face,” which he said was less important than “simple old-fashioned good manners.”

For those who learn to move between the East and West, taking the best of both, So says the future is rosy.

“There’s a lot of good business to be done in the region,” he said, “and from Hong Kong we promise full cooperation and assistance.”

In other news coming out of the conference, Star TV topper Gary Davey announced that the pan-Asian satcaster would be shifting gears and going more local — a response at least in part to the East-West divide that So was alluding to.

Saying the viewer wants entertaining programming that is sensitive to local culture and has local content, Davey said future expansion will consist of “locally focused channels” instead of a single broad pan-Asian target.

This will include a series of different language services, starting off with Mandarin and Hindi.

The company hopes this strategy will help deepen its penetration past the original “top 5%” of Asian households to take in “the emerging middle class.”

“Star ’94 will look quite different,” Davey promised.

Programming will come from Star and its News Corp. resources, as well as from a number of “strategic alliances with program providers and producers.”

Star also plans to strengthen its distribution growth by entering into other alliances with cable operators and hardware installers.

It has formed “StarNet,” a company that will drive the satcast installers in various markets, swapping marketing and promotional expertise for a share of equipment sales.

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