Challenges of Local Content Development for Digital Entertainment
Growth in China
Andrew Wu, Managing Director, Shanghai Epic Music Entertainment
& Chief China Representative, Sony BMG Music Entertainment
With this country's fast transformation from the traditional
to the digital economy, it is understandable that our Government
supervision over entertainment content reflects this transition
and has not yet caught up with the speed of change. For content
supervision, there are currently four different national ministries
involved, i.e. Ministry of Culture (MOC), State Administration
for Radio, Television & Film (SARFT), State Administration
of Press & Publication (SPPA), and Ministry of Information
Industry (MII). Each Ministry micro-manages entertainment content
vertically within its domain and often contradicts the other ministries
over specific entertainment content, such as song and lyrics approvals.
While this has resulted in very narrow depth and width of what
is legitimately available through traditional media or formats,
which are under the spell of a traditional mind-set, it also gives
rise to what is much more widely available for digital and new
media but mostly without any legitimacy. Obviously, the status
quo is grossly inefficient and, by logic, it begs for our Government
control to improve "macro-management" and strategic
effectiveness, to get in synch with 21st century technologies,
and to let the growing force of digital and new media dictate
how entertainment content in China should and could be sensibly
and sensitively harnessed. Government control over entertainment
content in China is a necessity, but it has to help and support
a healthy development of the local content industries; ultimately,
such control also has to be measured by success or failure of
the local content industry.
Unfortunately, protection of intellectual property right for entertainment
industry is too often associated or identified with foreign copyright
owners, which is very misleading. Pop music content, for instance,
is always local language-dominated everywhere in the world, such
as in Korea and Japan where their respective local content companies
are mighty powerful. For China's mainland at this moment, the
fact that Taiwan or Hong Kong music content dominates the consumer
market has more to do with poor competitiveness and weakness of
the Chinese mainland's local content.
To strengthen local content industries therefore has to be the
real answer, and digital and new media are promising to bring
about a new spring for local content, as already evidenced by
the recent phenomenon of Dao Lang, "Mice Love Rice"
and "Super Girl". In that light, international music
companies' presence or participation in China need not be feared
and could only help; and local companies could be nurtured simultaneously.
As there is plenty of local investment monies nowadays hungry
for opportunities and intrinsically attracted to go into the local
content industry too, it is just a matter of letting sound revenue
models to be established and help make content business become
commercially profitable. That is where IPR protection improvement
comes to play an absolutely critical role, without which no amount
of content development investment can be sustained for long and
no local content industry can ever hope to be built up.
The battle for the traditional music record industry as we know
it has been largely lost in China, but IPR protection in the digital
world will determine if the anti-piracy war in China will be won
and if China will develop one of the greatest entertainment content
industries in and for the world -- as our great country rightly
deserves to have.
Today, the local music content industry in China is "weak"
by any measure. We all know that there are enormous local talents,
but there are no sizable local companies for a substantial industry.
Recognizing this, therefore, we cannot afford to take content
for granted, especially not to allow the practice of "playing
Robin hood" against such content developers or copyright
owners who are already severely disadvantaged and under siege
in China. The Chinese Government at all levels, hardware suppliers,
digital platform operators and content companies must all work
together to realize the prosperous future of digital entertainment
in China. China's consumer marketplace is so unique, that international
content industry experiences are actually insufficient to guide
how our local situation could best evolve; so we need to apply
our Chinese wisdom to promote IPR development. In my view for
the entertainment business, the world is changing with China as
much as it is changing China -- hopefully all for the better.
(October 12, 2005)