Television reform requires more than better content

The China Post news staff

It seems that President Ma Ying-jeou is aware of how far foreign shows have infiltrated Taiwan’s television programming. Indeed, we have a string of channels that broadcast Western and Hong Kong films, as well Japanese and South Korean dramas. Most of Taiwan’s local shows are copycats of Japanese game shows or American reality shows. Following the government’s efforts to push for the digitization of the TV industry, Ma has asked that the sector work together to create better quality content for their viewers, calling it an important part of the overall reform of the nation’s TV industry.. But for reform to happen, a few words of encouragement for better content may not be enough. It is easy to argue that Taiwan’s original dramas and other assorted TV shows are not exactly shining bright in terms of outstanding achievements, especially considering their low budgets and ideas stolen from hit foreign programming. It is true that Taiwan’s television productions have very limited budgets compared to other countries and that competition is fierce. But other countries have fierce competition, too. Talk about competition, shows in the States sometimes get canceled after one episode if the ratings don’t cut the mustard. Taiwan’s broadcast selection has long been in the habit of mimicking other countries’ shows. Game shows in Taiwan are merely smaller versions of Japan’s mega game shows.

Taiwan’s first so-called “idol drama” — “Meteor Shower” — was adapted from the Japanese manga “Hona Yori Dango.” We rarely buy formatted shows from other countries because of budget concerns. Instead, we “create” our own shows with similar ideas such as the once-a-hit “Million Star” singing talent quest, dance show “Let’s Dance,” or our own version of “Top Model.” Yet, let us not forget, that amid the complaints of low budgets, Taiwan did and still does create plenty of original and popular, even hit, dramas. The romantic-comedy series “Fated to Love You” (命中注定我愛你) drew an average rating of 10.91, a record for “idol drama” ratings in Taiwan for the past 10 years.