With the Olympics going on in Beijing, I’m finally seeing some programs about China on the major TV networks. It seems like it takes a big event like the Olympics or major disasters to get traditional TV to actually take even a cursory look at anything outside the US borders. However, a lot of the stuff is rehashed and almost seems like a collection of whatever they had lying around that had the word “China” in the title.
The problem with TV is that it needs to cater to a large audience and hence the lowest common denominator. With the increasing number of stupid reality/game shows and absolutely no in-depth coverage of any issues that actually require thinking (for example, telcom immunity), the intellectual level of TV seems to be getting lower and lower.
Fortunately, with buzzwords like Web 2.0 and the Long Tail, decentralized media can cater to people even like me who are interested in getting a candid look at China and maybe even a little listening practice from Chinese speakers. With subtitles, that means you might have to actually read something. OMG! Real Americans don’t want to read!
For comparison, watch SexyBeijing.TV’s video about McDonald’s in China versus CNBC. The first difference you’ll notice is that I couldn’t embed the CNBC’s version so you’ll just have to go to their site.
The CNBC’s version is only about a minute long but I watched a longer program on TV (I don’t remember which channel it was) about China and McDonald’s and it was pretty much the same kind of deal so I think this is a reasonably good comparison.
While traditional media has much more influence and can talk to, for example, the CEO of McDonald’s in China, they seem to avoid talking to anybody who can’t speak English. I don’t recall having to read a single subtitle in the program. Even if they did interview a local, you’ll get the customary and absolutely horrible dubbing they do for any foreign language speakers.
In contrast, SexyBeijing’s version has some very funny dialogue with real people such as asking a fat kid whether he thinks eating at McDonald’s makes people fat. The one guy who is stuffing his face and goes to McDonald’s everyday is absolutely hilarious. Since his mouth was constantly full of food I had trouble making out what he was saying but the translation is a riot!
Thanks K and safarinew for helping me figure out what he said. Native ears sure are awesome!
你最喜欢吃的是什么？ – What’s your favorite thing to order?
汉堡啊。大个巨无霸跟我体型差不多。 – I like the Big Mac. It’s big, like me.
Personally, the SexyBeijing’s version seems more entertaining, informative, and real rather than some American dude narrating a digested version of the story on a background of related images from China. The CNBC’s version might be more informative with statistics of this and that but I don’t really care how many billions or dollars McDonald’s rakes in every year in China or how many hundreds of stores they recently opened.
The traditional media will be around for a while but I’m glad that the internet has allowed new and decentralized channels for content distribution. Let’s just hope they don’t take control (Net neutrality) or shut it down (Usenet) with scary tales of pirated movies and child porn lurking everywhere.