Greetings! We are pleased to introduce this Special Issue of the journal, Global Media and China titled the “Media and Entertainment Industry: The World and China.” This Special Issue offers contributions from scholars and practitioners around the world with expertise in cultural and media studies, communication studies, digital media, law, economics, innovation and entrepreneurship, and the creative industries.
The impetus for this Special Issue began with readings of Ernst & Young’s “Spotlight on China: Building a Roadmap for Success in Media and Entertainment” and Pricewaterhouse Cooper’s “China—leading the race to digital media revenues in Asia Pacific.” These readings revealed that China has seen rapid growth in the media and entertainment industry in recent years. It is projected to rise at a compound annual growth rate of 8.8% over the next 5-year period, climbing twice as fast as the rest of the world, forecast to grow at a rate of 4.4%. This growth is fueled by the spending power of its rising middle class, now with a population exceeding 770 million. In 2016, China surged past Japan as the largest M&E market in the Asia Pacific region and the second largest in the world behind only the United States.
The Chinese government has recognized these trends, and has sought to harness and expand them. In its 12th Five-Year Plan (2011–2015) China stated its goal to have the “cultural sector,” which includes its M&E industry, become a more robust growth engine for its economy. In that Plan, the Chinese cultural sector included Internet access, Internet advertising, TV subscriptions and license fees, filmed entertainment, newspaper publishing, and music.
The International Trade Administration (ITA) of the US Department of Commerce, in its snapshot of the US M&E industry, focused on the filmed entertainment, music, video game and publishing sectors, as well as global digital trends that “connect the U.S. with the world” and “cements the [US M&E] industry’s role as a respected leader in the creation and distribution of culture.” The US M&E industry is the largest worldwide, and is expected to reach US$771 billion by 2019; China’s M&E industry is on track to reach US$242 billion by 2019.
This Special Issue consists of six double-blind peer reviewed articles featuring China’s entertainment media and culture power, the spirit of Chinese law with respect to intellectual property and individual ownership rights, the global film industry, China–US film coproduction, China’s digital music ecosystem, and the evolving role of Chinese fans as co-creators of M&E content. In addition, we feature three short papers in a section called “In Focus,” where authors have been invited to report on specific topics related to content creation, production, and incentivization within China’s M&E industry: cultural and creative media industry clusters, intellectual property and copyright law, and collective rights management.
In his brilliant paper “Entertainment media, cultural power, and post-globalization: The case of China’s international media expansion and the discourse of soft power,” Terry Flew, Queensland University of Technology, Australia, provides insight on China’s use of the concept of soft power to understand the cultural dimensions of diplomacy, and its use as a practical guide for state investment in its news and entertainment media. Flew states that entertainment media are more likely to support the aspirations of the Chinese government than news media, and that in order to understand the effectiveness of a nation’s soft power, we must recognize the limits of the transmission model of communication, which fails to recognize that reach alone (i.e. the mere distribution of a country’s cultural content) is not enough to influence another. Flew states that without its reception (i.e. if cultural content does not appeal or is not willingly embraced by another) then its power to influence is weak. And what is power, if not “the ability of actor A to influence the behavior of actor B?”
Flew argues that we need to let go of the term “soft power” (and its overuse) in favor of “culture power.” Flew recognizes that the real power and influence in the world that China seeks with its soft power is for those exposed to China’s M&E content to have their own values, beliefs, and ideas somehow reshaped—China wants to influence others with the power of its culture.
To assess and understand the ability of China’s M&E industry to create/innovate, produce, disseminate, and earn a return on investment, is essentially to measure the effectiveness of its culture power, and to date, China recognizes it is faced with a cultural trade deficit. The influence of outside cultures, especially Western culture imported by China, far exceeds the export of China’s culture (and therefore its influence) on the rest of the world. China desires to bolster the export of its media, cultural and creative industries products, services, and way of life in order to recalibrate this balance.
China recognizes that it needs to learn. It also recognizes that it has much to offer in return, especially the incentive of its vast marketplace to the outside world, over which it keeps tight control. Weiying Peng, Queensland University of Technology, Australia, in her paper “Sino-US film coproduction: A global media primer,” illustrates the concept of “coopetition” (collaboration between business competitors) between the United States and China within the global film industry. The United States wants access to the Chinese market for cinema (which is projected to grow annually at 18.9% to 2020), and China wants to learn about Hollywood’s approach to global distribution—not only for immediate financial gain, but also for its longer term influence in the world via the distribution of its culture. “The Chinese government wants to borrow the Hollywood ‘boat’ to send Chinese culture around the world.”
In her case study, Peng cites the challenges of language and cultural differences that arise with US–China film coproduction and, furthermore, demonstrates the difference between “fake” and “real” coproductions—distinctions that become obvious when joint productions include fleeting “walk ons” of famous Chinese actors of which US audiences are not familiar, or brief panoramic shots of Chinese cityscapes instead of deep (“real”) cultural collaboration such as joint script-writing from the onset of film projects. Tensions from film coproduction lie in the desire for creative control (although not exactly for the same reasons). From the US perspective, there are often significant dollars—and egos—invested in a film, and most producers seek to do whatever minimum is required to get beyond Chinese government watchdogs looking for offensive content, or whatever minimum is required to pass through China’s quota system (which limits the number of foreign films allowed into the Chinese marketplace).
Giuseppe Richeri, Professor Emeritus at the Università della Svizzera Italiana, Switzerland, also references the strategy of coopetition in his paper, “Global film market, regional problems,” and gives insight on the “complex mix of political, economic and cultural issues” faced by the China–Europe–US film industry triangle. Richeri outlines Hollywood’s strategies towards China, China’s interest in cooperating with Hollywood, and Europe’s perspective on both, as he details China’s expanding role in the global film market while the United States and European film markets are flattening out. He cites the challenge of these countries to balance their cultural differences. The United States and Europe seek access to China’s expanding market, and China seeks to sustain its national traditions at home and widen its influence abroad. The United States has shown that creative freedom is the key to generating content that sells—both economically and with respect to its culture power—but it struggles with China’s restrictions on film content and a quota system that limits the number of films given access to China’s marketplace. Lastly, Richeri cites that other than “cultural, artistic and creative” competencies, Europe has little to negotiate with China when compared to the United States’ business acumen, distribution networks, and international global influence.
China is aware that (as Flew states) in order to enhance the dissemination and reception of its “cultural products,” it needs to enhance “the processes through which audiences derive meaning and pleasure from such cultural forms”—China is hungry for creativity and innovation education. (It is interesting to note that Chinese character “创, chuàng” meaning “to start, to initiate, to create” is found in both Chinese words for creativity “创意, chuàngyì” and innovation “创新, chuàngxīn.”) On several occasions, author Anthony De Ritis has offered workshops on the process of design thinking (championed by the creativity consultancy IDEO) at Tsinghua University’s x-lab within its School of Economics and Management (with his colleague, John Friar, of the D’Amore-McKim School of Business), at the Communication University of China, and at the newly formed “Beijing Advanced Innovation Center for Chinese National School of Music” at the China Conservatory of Music. Design thinking was recently featured by Forbes and the Harvard Business Review (September 2016) as a “core competence” that all businesses should integrate, particularly because it is viewed as a process of creativity and innovation that is teachable, and therefore of significant interest to Chinese higher education.
Yilu Liang and Wanqi Shen, Northeastern University, Boston, United States, in their paper “Fan Economy in the Chinese Media and Entertainment Industry: How Feedback from Super Fans Can Propel Creative Industries’ Revenue,” give us a snapshot of how China’s media and entertainment companies are beginning to embrace the creative powers of their fans, and are seeking new ways to develop, invest in, and nurture their fans towards co-creating innovative new cultural products.
Over the years, the interrelation between entertainment media and culture has raised arguments basing them on their influences. With time, media influence has grown exponentially, especially with the advancement in technology. As a result, entertainment media have had a huge impact on people’s way of thinking, and, therefore, impacted their cultures. The world we live in today depends on information and communication so as to move towards the right direction; for this, media plays a critical role in influencing decisions made. Moreover, it is for this reason that it is evident to affirm that entertainment media and their various forms have highly contributed in shaping American society in terms of it’s culture, beliefs and decisions made in the past. However, the influence brought about by entertainment media has both positive and negative impacts, especially to teenagers.
The world is changing at an alarming rate; this is because of the ease in sharing information brought by technology. Moreover, as the way of life changes, so does the culture and values that uphold the moral understanding of American people. Some of the values are slowly losing their essence as people welcome their new lifestyles. According to media economics, media industry is among the lucrative ventures as people have hunger for information, and they use any means to access information as they communicate with people from all corners of the world. With this dominance and reliance, entertainment media are considered a platform that can be used to reach out to people and pass influences that affect our day to day lifestyle. Media have become a dominant form of communication that influences public opinion and are used to influence the ideas people have, as well as their way of thinking. By this, there exists positive and negative impact to the issues addressed in the media (Sayre & King, 2009).
To begin with, violence is among the concerns that media have influenced over the years through the use of propaganda. In other words, media houses are known for manipulating news and, as a result, trigger violence. Political criticism in media has a huge effect on people and affects their way of seeing things; as a result, this tension affects the decisions made on political issues (Shrum et al, 2012). Secondly, alcoholism among teenagers is traced from the influences in media. Today, Burge drinking among teenagers is considered normal as many youngsters are practicing it as a way to deal with peer pressure. Additionally, sexual activities have been on the rise due to the content aired by today’s media houses. Sexual arousal images are everywhere: in magazines, on television, in movies, on the internet, and this way of advertisement is considered the best strategy to advertise products by corporate. These are just a few practices that are adopted because of the content aired in entertainment media.
On the other hand, entertainment media has also been used to pass positive messages, especially when advocating for peace, and in addressing sensitive issues in society. Spiritual leaders are now using media tool to revive the moral understanding of people and draw them towards religion. There have also been campaigns that address issues affecting people in society with the aim of providing social and economic support to affected people. In other words, entertainment media also provide a platform for individuals spreading positive influence in people’s lives (Andersen & Taylor, 2008). Moreover, people have a tendency to copy the things on the media; however, this depends on the information obtained and the impact it has on the viewers. Additionally, as much as there are individuals using the media to pass positive influences to society, negative influences remain influential in terms of shaping America’s culture.
In conclusion, it is clearly evident that entertainment media is a catalyst that posses much power to influence society. Entertainment media ought to understand that people depend on these stories to get updates of the things happening around the world; therefore, it is wise to choose only the right content to be aired, especially during daytime and evenings when everyone is watching.
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