BROOKE GLADSTONE: Now cable subscribers in San Francisco and Los Angeles can tune in to the Chinese perspective by way of a new Fox channel -- an English language version of China's state broadcaster, China Central Television. The decision to provide the West Coast with news from Beijing had less to do with serving the public than with striking a deal with the Chinese government. In exchange, Rupert Murdoch received permission to set up an entertainment cable channel in China, and though the new STAR Satellite Channel airs only in Southern China now, the potential to tap eventually into the world's largest TV population was too much to resist. So what will the Chinese see? American style TV of course. The sitcom Joyful Youth has been likened to Friends. There'll be Mandarin takes on the People's Court and America's Most Wanted and plenty of game shows. We spoke to the president of STAR China -- Jamie Davis. He describes a promo spot in which the network's stars shine against a background of Chinese pop. [CHINESE POP SONG UP AND UNDER]
JAMIE DAVIS: We've created this image spot for the channel which has really all of our hosts interacting with each other, so you'll have the judge playing around with a game show host playing around with the cast of Joyful Youth while the logo is slamming into them and they're falling onto it and it's exploding and-- [LAUGHTER] [CHINESE POP SONG UP] We've got sitcoms, we've got dramas, we've got variety shows, we've got talk shows, we have game shows -- really virtually every single type of program that you would expect to see on a general entertainment channel except for we don't have any news on the channel.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: That's because a Murdoch-owned STAR network already serves China with news, right? With Phoenix.
JAMIE DAVIS:That's exactly right. We already have another channel which we own 38 percent of named Phoenix which does broadcast already into mainland China, and in launching a second channel we took a strategic decision not to compete head on head with Phoenix and instead to try and complement the channel. We're skewing younger, more fun, more -- more like Fox versus what was maybe CBS years ago when they had older-skewing shows and Fox was much younger -- we're taking that similar type of approach.
BROOKE GLADSTONE:You're taking a similar approach but not nearly as far [LAUGHS] as Fox took it in America. I can't imagine that Al Bundy or When Animals Attack would be big hits [LAUGHTER] in China,but there are a number of programs that you're providing that have awfully close American analogs. Joyful Youth has been compared to Friends. You even recruited a local Letterman!
JAMIE DAVIS: Well, I think that what's happened is, is people have been looking for analogies when they're trying to report in America and they've been trying to grasp at things to make it an analogy so people can understand. When you actually look at the programming, they're not that similar. Let's take Joyful Youth for example. The Joyful Youth script and story line is a hundred percent different. Just because it happens to be 3 women living together in an urban environment and they have 3 friends and they hang out together -- that was how the analogy of Friends came in together. The story lines in the scripts are completely different because the story line of Friends would never make sense in China.
BROOKE GLADSTONE:So Jamie what you're saying is that Joyful Youth is, is really not so much like Friends but actually a lot more like Laverne & Shirley.
JAMIE DAVIS: [LAUGHS] Well they're not, they're not making beer either. [LAUGHS]
BROOKE GLADSTONE: I wonder -- have you heard the same complaints in China that Fox heard when it began its great rise -- that it was dumbing down TV or turning it from an informational tool to a waste of brain power?
JAMIE DAVIS: We haven't heard that and I would actually say that when I was using the Fox analogy, I wasn't meaning that we were doing things like In Living Color and Married with Children and other things like that. And I still think that was a right thing for Fox to have done -to try and develop a niche - to really establish at a time when they came in against the 3 major networks, ABC, NBC, and CBS. We're in a different position where I'm just trying to create actually what would be considered an upscale brand for the masses. When I say "upscale," it's good-looking. It's really hot graphics and everything else. But the content is just plain and simple that everyone can understand and relate to. But you have to remember -- Chinese television while --is dominated by CCTV which is the national broadcaster -- has evolved quite a bit recently. You have very strong provincial cable and satellite networks in all of the provinces. There's, there's almost everything that you'd see here now also on the television in the United -- in China.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Well Jamie Davis, thank you very much.
JAMIE DAVIS: Thank you very much.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Jamie Davis is president of STAR China. [MUSIC]
by Jie-Bing Chen - Erh-hu, V.M. Bhatt - Mohan Vina, Bela Fleck - Banjo