Summary of Michael Curtin's article "Murdoch's Dilemma, or What's the price of TV in China?"

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According to Michael Curtin's article "Murdoch's Dilemma, or What's the price of TV in China?" Rupert Murdoch acquired Star TV in attempt to create a Pan-Asian media empire but could not overcome the problems associated with such a broad range of a culturally diverse audience and, says curtain, "the logistical demands of competing with local and national television broadcasters". Also the fact that "global satellite systems are grounded by a set of forces that are materially and culturally specific to societies that fall with their footprints" posed another dilemma. Rupert Murdoch believed that television had a significant impact on power hierarchies because it exposed the "backstage" behavior of people in power and also created intimate feelings with others that were previously feared or rivaled. He believed that social integration was accelerated by electronic media through imagery and that this media imagery could change local experience by allowing tens of millions of viewers to experience events from no particular perspective but their own.

This lack of predetermined perspective would help the creation of transnational political movements on issues such as ecology, human rights, and nuclear disarmament, by destabilizing the conventional power hierarchies. Curtain also states that Murdoch believed that "satellite broadcasting allowed viewers of closed societies to by-pass state controlled television".

However the unique culture of the People Republic of China had a difficulty with media globalization because globalization aimed to "weaken the cultural coherence of all individual nation states". Consequently private ownership of satellite dishes, newspaper advertising for foreign satellite services was banned by the Chinese leaders. These steps proved to be successful and reinforced the idea that "physical infrastructure on the ground was just as important to Star TV as high speed conduits in the sky". In reaction to this Star TV was forced to increase the number of channels they carried and had to target them more specifically along linguistic, cultural, and national lines. As a result Star TV developed a northern and southern beam one pan-Indian and the other pan-Chinese which failed due to further linguistic, social, and cultural problems within them. Curtain suggests that "cultural bias significantly influence patterns of cultural exchange". To overcome this Star had to multiply channels again and narrow the focus of each service by developing two Mandarin language platforms. The Phoenix network developed Mandarin language movie and general entertainment channels with emphasis on news and informational programming to expose the Phoenix identity as "a version of Chineseness that embraces the conservative culture and political philosophies preferred by the Party leadership in Beijing. But because of the prohibition of newspaper advertising for foreign satellite services, and control over access to cable systems Star TV funded many celebrations and events to spread word of mouth and increase popular buzz with mild success.

On the other hand the government regulations imposed on Phoenix also allowed them to fashion a service aimed at viewers who were accustomed to Mandarin programming and was also able to cover national and international news that wasn't monitored by censors which in turn made the program popular. Curtain states that phoenix benefits from its ability to negotiate the complex shades of political discourse on the mainland but this same sensitivity limits the scope of its address. And so, Phoenix must balance the economies that may be achieved through broader appeal with the need to position it self in relation to mainland competitors and government policies.

SourcesCurtain, Michael. "Murdoch's Dilemma or What's the price of TV in China?" Media, Culture & Society © 2005 SAGE Publications (London, Thousand Oaks and New Delhi), Vol. 27(2):155-157