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Cablegate: Controversial Computer-Animated News Service Launched By


DE RUEHIN #1468/01 3451137
R 111137Z DEC 09






E.O. 12958: N/A

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: Taiwan's mass-circulation "Apple Daily" newspaper
has come under fire following the launch of its computer-generated
graphic motion news service in mid-November. The sensational and
make-believe content and graphic animation have been criticized more
for depicting violence and sex than for any ethical lapses. Yet,
some young people see the new service as a novelty, and there have
been more than 1.7 million hits on YouTube for the animated news
clips. Graphic news clips could be a harbinger of the future for
news in Taiwan. END SUMMARY.

News in Motion

2. (SBU) The "Apple Daily," a sensationalist Hong Kong transplant
newspaper founded by Hong Kong media mogul Jimmy Lai's Next Media,
Ltd. in 2003, rolled out its online animated graphic news, or "news
in motion" feature, on November 16, 2009. The computer-generated,
video game-like "news in motion" combines real footage and
simulations made with animated video clips showing details of news
events. The clips are accompanied by background music and a
voice-over recounting what happened or what the newspaper thinks
happened. People with high-end cell phones can watch the news clips
on their cell phones, and the clips are also accessible on YouTube.
The animated news service is free during its promotional stage. But
"Apple Daily" said it will charge cell phone users NT$0.5 (US$0.016)
dollars for one "news in motion" story starting in early 2010.

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Sex and Violence

3. (SBU) "Apple Daily's" animated news, like the paper itself,
sparked an immediate public outcry among the public, academics, as
well as other media outlets. While some viewers found the animated
news service novel and unique, calling it a future trend that uses
graphics and animation techniques to "show" news rather than "tell"
it, various civic groups and media watchdog organizations in Taiwan
criticized the sensational service for concentrating on sexual abuse
and violence. On November 19, these civic groups and media
watchdogs staged protests outside the headquarters of Next Media and
Taiwan's National Communications Commission (NCC), an independent
policy-making and regulatory body for Taiwan's telecommunications
market and electronic media.

Mayor Hau Fines the Paper

4. (SBU) While the NCC was scrambling to find existing laws to
regulate the service, Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin jumped in and fined
the company NT$1 million (US$31,000), accusing the paper of
violating the Children and Juvenile Welfare Act. The Taipei City
Government also barred public schools in the city from subscribing
to the paper, and banned teenagers under 18 years old from borrowing
the paper in public libraries. The newspaper initially condemned
the city government for "exercising martial law" and said it might
sue the city government for "trampling on the freedom of the press."
But, a day later, the paper apologized to the public and said it
had set up a rating system for its online news. Mayor Hau's actions
earned him a "worst person in the world" award on MSNBC, which can
be seen at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4tO7NWuUUPw.

Thwarted TV Ambitions

5. (SBU) Since establishing his conglomerate in Taiwan, Next Media
Chairman Jimmy Lai has always shown great interest in expanding his
media realm by setting up TV stations. Lai attempted to acquire the
venerable China Times Group in early November, 2008, which owned two
newspapers, two TV stations and one magazine, and was having serious
financial difficulties. At the last minute, the Want Want Group
stepped in with a bigger offer to buy the China Times Group out from
under him. Lai is still trying to set up his own TV channels, but
the NCC announced on December 9 that it rejected Next Media's
applications to set up news and information TV channels. The NCC
said the news content Next intended to show went against the core
values upheld by the commission and violated regulations on TV
program ratings. Next said it felt it was "misunderstood." It has
also argued that "news in motion" was not a harbinger of clips to
come on is TV channels.

A Bleak Future for Newspapers?

6. (SBU) Taiwan has a highly competitive media environment, which is
prone to sensationalism and unbalanced reporting. At the same time,
growing internet use has hurt the newspaper industry. Nevertheless,

Jimmy Lai, a master of marketing, has made "Apple Daily" Taiwan's
most talked-about newspaper, as well as turning a profit. Lai has
reportedly spent two years and more than NT1 billion (US$30 million)
on the "news in motion" project. An "Apple Daily" journalist told
AIT that Lai believes such animated news clips, mostly drawn from
crime stories, including sexual assaults and murders, appeal to
young people, who favor novelty and prefer graphics to words. What
Lai sees is the future of the media business, in which he wants to
create a climate of "micropayments," the journalist added. With the
controversy the service caused by its computer-generated news report
on U.S. golfer Tiger Woods S.U.V. crash, Apple Daily's animated news
service Has garnered more than 1.7 million views on YouTube alone
and become a top global online video. The Tiger Woods clip can be
seen at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7i5FlC1MpkE.

Journalistic Ethics

7. (SBU) While discussing future media trends, a local social critic
said in her blog that the emergence of "news in motion" is not
simply a matter of how a media outlet decides to "present" its news
stories; instead, it is clearly a result of the fierce competition
for viewership and advertising income. "The emergence of the
Internet has created an unprecedented challenge to the news
business. How else will the news 'presentation' methods evolve just
so that the media industry can survive? And will professionalism
and ethics remain the essential factors in journalism?" she wrote.


8. (SBU) Rapid advancements in information technologies have created
sweeping changes in the global and Taiwan news landscape and left
news outlets scrambling for a new business model. Jimmy Lai has
proven his ability to break the mold in the past, and his animated
news clips at "Apple Daily" are an innovative attempt to entice
people to pay for "news" content over the internet. Graphic news
clips could be a harbinger of the future for news in Taiwan ... and


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