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Imaginations and Borderless TV

Thomas, Amos Owen. Imaginations & Borderless Television: Media, Culture and Politics Across Asia. New Delhi, India: Sage, 2005. Paperback. 290 pages. ISBN: 0-7619-3395-6. $23.50.

Reviewed by Samaa Aly El-Batrawy

This book is about exploratory research into the growth and development of transnational TV in Asia, analyzing its impact on advertising industries in South Asia, Southeast Asia, and Northeast Asia. Special attention is given to how governments perceived transnational satellite TV as a threat and how successful they were in controlling its access. Through surveys and content analysis, the study focused on key transnational TV markets drawn from India, Malay and Greater China as case studies. Imaginations and Borderless Television furthers the knowledge on the impact of satellite on the media industry in developing countries across Asia. 

Transnational media obviously fascinate Thomas. He traveled to 10 countries around Asia, most more than once. A former review editor for TBS Journal, Thomas taught marketing, and international business at the Maastrict School of Management as a specialist in the Asian television industry. He has taught at four universities in Australia, Southeast Asia and South Pacific. His presence in different countries across Asia for so many years made him aware of the variables that affected the communication industry and system in the region, lends credence to his research. The application of multi-method approach using interviews, comprehensive case studies and adapting ethnographic methodology makes the book interesting and authentic for readers.

One sees the reality about transnational TV in Asia from an insider’s perspective since the author visited the countries involved and interviewed sources in their work places. Interviews were conducted with advertising agencies, marketers, media owners, policy makers and opinion leaders.

The book focuses on the transnational TV and its development in the first five years. Data were collected in 1994-95 and in 1999-2000, and the book was originally written in 2003, which dates some of the information. As it's an exploratory research, the interviews were semi-structured. Issues raised were all based on the research questions.

The book includes many interesting tidbits, like analyzing government policies towards transnational TV in the three regions, focusing on a country selected from each region for its representation of the major market with reference to its history, geography, cultural policies, and broadcasting history, followed by an explicit comparison of the experience of the transnational TV between the three case studies.

Some of the preliminary findings of this research have been published in academic and policy journals, or presented at academic conferences. Although this book could work as a reference for MNC's (Multi National Corporations), civil society groups, advertising agencies and those who have a special interest in broadcast media, it’s readable and interesting to the general reader. The author's style of writing is simple and very clear. The grouping of information under subtitles helps the reader to focus and holds his interest. Three appendices and a glossary makes this a useful book for scholars seeking to replicate his studies in other parts of the world.

Despite focusing on Asia, the experience with transnational TV researched in this book would be applicable and useful for developing countries around the world as they share common features. Particularly useful was the author’s review and classification of Asian channels and his explanation of governmental policies that range from repressive to free.

Imaginations and Borderless Television is an excellent book, explaining the start of the transnational TV in Asia, and its impact on all aspects of life; culturally, economically, and politically.

About Samaa Aly El-Batrawy

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