December 30, 2005

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Targeting China's Children

Read a fascinating pair of articles today from the New York Times (free registration site). This first one is about how Viacom's Nickelodeon, the children's cable TV network, is targeting the children of China is fun, irreverent rogramming that dispenses with dogmatic messages about how to behave. Great strategy - will the parents and the government like it? A quote from the article:

Viacom already has a 24-hour MTV channel in southern Guangdong province. China Central Television and the Shanghai Media Group broadcast Nickelodeon's "Wild Thornberries" and "CatDog" cartoons. "SpongeBob SquarePants" is due to premiere here next month.

But with television programming in China entirely state-controlled, Western media companies must negotiate every nuance of programming. And experts say that parents here may be even more restrictive than the government, viewing American-style television as too unruly.

"It wouldn't be surprising if the government said no to programs like these," says Lei Weizhen, who teaches about television at People's University in Beijing. "The public may question whether or not these shows are good for Chinese children."

In the cutthroat competition of contemporary Chinese society, parents invest heavily in what is often their only child. Urban children especially may attend school from 7 a.m. till 4 p.m., followed by hours of homework, music lessons and other enrichment courses. Deviating from this rigorous program is not encouraged.

"We don't allow him to watch too much TV," Qiu Yi, a 41-year-old advertising salesman in Shanghai, said of his 11-year-old son. "I'm not against cartoons. But I try to encourage him to watch documentaries on dinosaurs and the Second World War. These programs are useful to his study."

I am sure both Viacom and the Chinese government are wondering the same thing. Are these 'creative' influences mildly suggestive of American child rebelliousness, and what impact will it have on Chinese society?

posted by HK Dave on 12.30.05 at 08:57 AM in the China history, education & culture category.


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There's a greater worry - that China's little emporers will turn into a vast army of rote-learning robots that lack creativity, initiative and drive, such as largely afflicts Japan and Korea. If American cartoons can engender a small amount of rebelliousness, it may undermine Confucian ideals of filial duty, but it may also prove the spark that ignites future economic growth and success.

posted by: Simon on 12.30.05 at 10:06 AM [permalink]

I quite agree Simon, the potential for differences in thinking created by cartoons are quite positive overall, as much as China may fret about it (proof being that Disney was banned from airing its Looney Tunes cartoons on TV on the mainland until this year).

It will also be interesting to see what works and translates well in China, and what does not (for instance, Mulan) simply because the kids don't like it much.

posted by: HK Dave on 12.30.05 at 12:05 PM [permalink]

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