is one of the most prominent regional satellite and cable television
operations in the world. Its coverage footprint reaches from the
Arab world to South Asia to East Asia. It carries global U.S. and
British channels as well as channels in Mandarin and Hindi targeted
at regional audiences defined by language and culture, and in so
doing has helped define a new type of geo-cultural or geo-linguistic
television market that stands between the U.S. dominated global
market and national television markets. Fully acquired by Rupert
Murdoch by the end of 1995 Star now forms a central part of his
global media empire. In both news and culture, Star-TV is as challenging
to some governments as United States imported programs and news
have been. In 1995, Star-TV reached 53.7 million television households
in 53 countries in English, Mandarin, and Hindi.
In April 1990, China's Long March III rocket launched a C-band satellite
called AsiaSat-1. China International Trust and Investment Corp.
(CITIC), Cable & Wireless of Britain and Hong-Kong's Hutchison Whampoa,
jointly owned AsiaSat, making it Asia's first privately owned satellite.
By picking up signals on parabolic dishes on the ground in an area
under the satellite's footprint, regional broadcasting in Asia became
In December 1990, Hong Kong granted a license to Hutchison Whampoa's
satellite broadcasting arm, HutchVision, to begin a Direct Broadcast
Satellite (DBS) service via AsiaSat. In a $300 million venture,
the Satellite Television Asia Region operation, (Star-TV), began
transmissions in August 1991. In July 1993, News Corp.'s Chairman
Rupert Murdoch, already a power in Australia, Britain and America,
bought into Star for $525 million (a 63.6% stake), forming a partnership
with business tycoon Li Ka-shing, whose family owned the company.
With the purchase, Murdoch's FOX studio and network had access to
a successful Asian window in which to distribute programming. In
July 1995, Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. paid $346 million to buy
the remaining 36.4% of Star-TV.
AsiaSat for Star-TV created a problem, however, because the satellite
was never meant to be used for broadcasting. Under the jurisdiction
of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), it was begun
as a telecommunications satellite only. Little has been done about
this situation, but criticism has developed in the scholarly community.
In a 1992 paper for the International Communication Association,
Seema Shrikhande asserted that, "Using telecommunications satellites
for broadcasting goes against the ruling that national sovereignty
includes the state's control over television within its borders
and that satellite footprints should be tailored to national boundaries
as far as possible." Following these assumptions, several countries
have attempted to place restrictions on reception of Star-TV but
have found them difficult to enforce.
Working with the idea of providing regionally-focused niche or genre-focused
programming, Star-TV originally transmitted five channels 24-hours
a day. These included MTV Asia (Viacom), British Broadcasting Corporation's
World Service Television (WSTV), Prime Time Sports (a joint venture
with the Denver-based Prime Network), entertainment and cultural
programs through Star Plus, and a Mandarin Chinese-language channel.
Subsequently MTV has withdrawn to offer its own wholly owned channels
via satellite. Star-TV has replaced it with Channel V. More focused
on Asian videos, Channel V has become quite popular and now competes
favorably with MTV in the region.
1994, Murdoch removed the BBC World Service news from the northern
part of Star's coverage area over China because its content offended
news-sensitive China. In an earlier speech, Murdoch had said, "Advances
in the technology of communications have proved an unambiguous threat
to totalitarian regimes: Fax machines enable dissidents to bypass
state-controlled print media; direct-dial telephone makes it difficult
for a state to control interpersonal voice communication; and satellite
broadcasting makes it possible for information-hungry residents
of many closed societies to bypass state-controlled television channels."
Despite this view, China subsequently demanded and received the
removal of the BBC in order to permit reception of Star-TV in China.
represents a very direct challenge to several Asian governments
that have tended to restrict the inflow of information. Burma, Singapore,
Saudi Arabia and Malaysia have made reception of Star essentially
illegal. China requires a restrictive license for satellite reception
dishes, although many individuals and cable systems continue to
receive Star's offerings. India and Taiwan supposedly require licenses
but permit both individuals and cable systems to receive it openly.
Most other countries regulate redistribution via cable TV or apartment
building antenna systems (SMATV) but are essentially open to Star
and other satellite channels.
its initial phase with five channels, Star has begun to target audiences
more narrowly in terms of genres, language, and culture. For example,
Star-TV is half owner of its sixth channel, Zee TV, which offers
Indian-produced Hindi-language programs. Zee reaches more than 25%
of the total TV households in India and a significant viewership
in the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan.
Another example of channel targeting by audience and culture comes
as Star-TV has begun to refine several versions of its Channel V
music channel for different regions of Asia.
early 1996, Star-TV had 14 channels targeting various genres, languages
and cultures, particularly in Hindi-speaking India and Mandarin
Chinese-speaking areas. It expected to have a total of 30 channels
in operation before the end of 1996, with most of the new ones concentrating
on Japan, Indonesia, and other smaller markets. Its pattern as of
1996 in Japan and Indonesia is to start with one country-focused
channel, including movies, sports, music and general entertainment,
then to expand these into separate genre-based channels focused
at that country.
audience was originally concentrated in Taiwan, China and India,
but has been steadily growing as its programming begins to target
other cultures and languages, as well. All of Star's channels are
advertiser-driven, thus they are free to viewers. This tends to
give Star-TV a much larger audience than pay-TV operations. Star-TV
takes programming from a number of sources, principally the United
States, Hong Kong, China, Taiwan, India and Japan. It has tended
to reduce non-Asian programming somewhat over time, responding to
an apparent audience preference for what it calls "localized" programming.
Star and similar regional operations add a new layer of complexity
to discussions of concepts such as media imperialism, the globalization
of culture, and the international flow of television. The system's
emphasis on intra-regional cultural flows--across national borders
but within language and cultural boundaries--assumes that audiences
will respond to the cultural similarity or proximity of the programming.
Given further satellite developments in other regions, Star-TV may
be an example of one form of future television.
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also Hong Kong; Murdoch,
Corporation, Ltd.; Satellite