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Cultural Difference in Television Programs

Foreign Television Programs in China

Zhuo Feng

What kinds of foreign television programs are broadcast in China? What types of cultural differences exist in the minds of Chinese television viewers? To what extent can they perceive and accept these differences? The author developed a three-stage empirical approach to examine these questions in five sample cities in China. First, the television schedules of 37 television channels were analyzed in order to determine the type, cultural modification, and export country of foreign programs. Second, based on 36 audience interviews 42 cultural dimensions were explored and summarized in a catalogue. Third, a survey was conducted among 450 viewers, which examined their perception and acceptance of cultural difference. Five viewer types were developed through cluster analysis. The impact of influential factors was examined.


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This work was accepted as a doctoral dissertation at the Friedrich-Schiller- University Jena in Germany in June 2012. Culture is a complex whole which includes values, beliefs, knowledge, morals and habits created over time and shared by members of a society. Cultural difference varies in different ways in people’s lives. Television programs also have cultural difference if they are pro- duced in one culture and broadcast in another. The starting point of this study concerns some controversial theoretical dis- cussions about cultural difference in universal media products. On the one hand, there is a belief in the global cultural convergence of universal media products. In this world, people genuinely understand each other. One significant result of cultural convergence is cultural imperialism. On the other hand, the global flow of universal media products by no means indicates universal reception and the end of difference. Despite similar appearances on the surface, real differences remain and will probably stay that way for quite some time. The essence of the discussions concerns the extent of cultural difference in universal media prod- ucts. This study developed a three-stage methodological approach to examine the following three research questions from the perspective of Chinese viewers. (1) What types of foreign television programs are broadcast in China? To answer this question the television schedules from 37 television channels in five sample cities (Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Nanjing, and Xi’An) in China were analyzed and an overview was constructed of the types of foreign pro- grams broadcast. (2) What types...

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