The media play a role in making knowledge bases available to the average citizen. Transferring the success formula for the dissemination of information from one cultural context to another is often easier said than done. This is the case even if the difference in culture is not as stark as that between the United States and China. Problems arise even if the knowledge transfer is being effected from Hong Kong to Taiwan. That was what Jimmy Lai, a successful media baron from Hong Kong, found out when he went to Taiwan to introduce his publications there.
Lai's observation about transferring his Hong Kong knowledge base to Taiwan, as quoted in Time Magazine (2001b), is, 'You go to a strange place, you have to have humility , not just ability.' Putting this maxim into practice, Lai took the position of only deputy chairman of his media group in Taiwan. The post of chairman was given to the CEO of his Taiwan business house partner. This post was acceded to the Taiwanese even though he had invested only 30 per cent of the venture's capital. Meanwhile, Lai found it difficult to participate directly in the media's knowledge generation effort since he was not conversant with Mandarin Chinese, the language spoken in Taiwan.
As far as the media are concerned , language plays a role in the transplanting of knowledge from one culture to another. The experience of STAR, the cable TV global corporation owned by the Australian media tycoon Rupert Murdoch, is testimony to this.
STAR provides cable TV services in eight languages to 53 countries . Its programmes have 300 million viewers . The network has knowledge regarding programmes that have proven successful to a Western viewership. What it does in Asia is to offer these programmes in the local language, with local stars and representing the local ambience. For instance, the television programme Who wants to be a millionaire? has been very popular with Western audiences. This is essentially a quiz programme where contestants have the opportunity to double the prize money they earn for every successive question they answer correctly. In order to make the process more interesting, the contestant can take help thrice. One help option is to telephone and consult a friend. The second is to take a studio audience poll about the right answer. The third help option is to get the suggested four answers reduced to two. A Hindi version of Who wants to be a millionaire? has been shown in India by STAR and received well. Questions were posed about the Indian milieu. The quizmaster was a popular Indian film star, and many contestants did win big prize money. The programme had been adapted to suit the local culture.
James Murdoch, CEO of STAR, is quoted in Time Magazine (2001k) as saying, 'To assume that you can force-feed American culture is crazy.' He believes that there is more than one mass market. He also realizes that Hindi or Mandarin-speaking people can be global as well. The objective of STAR is to understand the diverse tastes of the burgeoning middle classes in each of its markets, and to adapt its knowledge base appropriately. This includes not swinging in the opposite direction and assuming that popular programmes developed for a Western viewership will have no appeal at all in the Asia region.
Meanwhile, the merger of AOL with Time Warner in late December 2000 makes their wide- ranging wares available worldwide on an anytime , anywhere , anyhow basis. The merger also makes AOL-Time Warner the biggest media transnational corporation in the world. At the time of its merger it was worth US~$202 billion. Its wares included broadcasting, publishing, music and movies. These wares could be made available to consumers via either the Internet or a cable television network. The following points of interest in the context of a world connected by the transmission of knowledge have been noted in Time Magazine (2000b):
Broadband technology will enable all AOL-Time Warner wares, from publications such as books and magazines, to movies and music, to the browsing for and placement of shopping orders, to be accessed through cable television lines.
Broadband technology is currently the most versatile medium for making available the entire range of wares to customers. It is much faster than any other medium available for the transmission of such services.
The Internet connectivity offered by AOL-Time Warner allows for the fastest instant messaging possible. One million new users are registered every six weeks.