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Critics: Hong Kong’s TV Industry Hits New Low with Derivative Talk Show Clone of Shows Like David Letterman, Jimmy Fallon

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Vivienne Chow reports: Hong Kong’s television industry has hit a “new low” as TVB’s latest talk show Sze U Tonight was accused of copying popular American hosts such as Jimmy Fallon and David Letterman.

 “A TVB spokesman said Lee had already announced that his show would ‘take references’ from U.S. talk shows. But Lee insisted the show did not copy US shows entirely.”

Critics said the TVB show, hosted by comedian Johnson Lee Sze-chit, reflected the lack of creativity in the city’s TV productions – and even warned the alleged similarities in format and set designs could lead to legal action.

Sze U Tonight, which debuted on TVB Jade on Sunday, features Lee behind a desk interviewing celebrities sitting on a sofa, against the backdrop of Hong Kong’s skyline. It apparently bore a striking resemblance of the likes of The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon on NBC and Late Show with David Letterman on CBS.

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Lee’s desk, complete with an old-fashioned microphone, a pencil holder full of pencils and a coffee mug, was said to look like Letterman’s. The show also has a live band, a signature of Letterman’s show.

“Sze U Tonight risked falling into copyright traps, but it will depend on whether the U.S. networks decide to take legal action.”

Sze U Tonight achieved 16 rating points on Sunday – an equivalent to a TV audience of more than a million, accounting for a 93 per cent share. A TVB spokesman said Lee had already announced that his show would “take references” from US talk shows. But Lee insisted the show did not copy US shows entirely as it featured local content.

The South China Morning Post contacted NBC but the broadcaster has yet to comment on allegations its show has been copied.

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Barrister Albert Luk Wai-hung said it was common for TV stations to customise foreign shows. ATV screened quiz show Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? while TVB broadcast The Weakest Link in the 1990s. But ATV and TVB acquired the rights from foreign stations which had originally broadcast them overseas.

Mainland China has also acquired the rights to foreign shows, such as South Korea’s Running Man and Dad! Where Are We Going?

However, it is understood that TVB did not acquire the rights to any of the US talk shows for the production of Sze U Tonight. Read the rest of this entry »

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How Russia props up Putin in the polls

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Christopher Walker is executive director of the International Forum for Democratic Studies at the National Endowment for Democracy. Robert Orttung is assistant director of the Institute for European, Russian and Eurasian Studies at the George Washington University’s Elliott School for International Affairs.

Christopher Walker and Robert Orttung write: Russian President Vladimir Putin’s popularity appears to resist the laws of political physics. Despite the price of oil sinking below $50 a barrel and the Russian economy falling into a tailspin, Putin’s approval ratings hover above 80 percent, seemingly defying ­gravity.

“The cream of Russian society is voting with its feet, leaving a stultifying, ever more corrupt environment for greener pastures that allow them to productively apply their talents.”

But the numbers should not be taken at face value.

Deeper scrutiny is especially important because the more Putin’s sky-high popularity ratings are mentioned, the more they become accepted wisdom. Western news media and political analysts frequently report on them without providing critically needed context.

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“All of this should tell us something. Today, the Kremlin must work far harder than it has to manufacture regime support. Its fiercer propaganda and harsher repression suggest that the Russian population is less willing to accept Putin. To compensate, the state apparatus has been shifted into overdrive.”

First, Putin’s popularity has been achieved in an information vacuum. An informal set of censorship rules, actively enforced by the Kremlin, makes it virtually impossible to discuss important issues and question official actions through the mass media. Today, independent voices rarely reach into Russian living rooms over the airwaves. In recent months, the government has tightened its noose, pressuring even outlets serving niche audiences, such as the news Web site Lenta.ruthe newspaper Vedomosti and the Moscow station TV Rain. Meanwhile, feverish state propaganda feeds Russian television audiences an unchallenged and delusive flow of information designed to show the country’s leaders in the most positive light while blaming problems on “fascists,” “foreign agents” and “fifth columns.”

Second, Putin’s political repression makes certain that only the bravest and most self-sacrificing individuals challenge his rule. Emerging opposition leaders are either removed, smeared or co-opted before they gain sufficient popularity to present a threat. A popularity figure of 80-plus percent simply tells us that Russians cannot conceive of an alternative to Putin. Read the rest of this entry »