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Utrecht Centre for Television in Transition


7 November 2011

From the old Sovjet Union to modern China

In the November session of TViT, we have a very interesting double-presentation by the visiting scholars Xiaoxio Zhang (The Chinese University of HongKong) and Lars Lundgren (Södertörn University Stokholm). See below for a short description of their work and background.

The time and location:
7 November 2o11,  Janskerkhof 13, room 0.06, 3.30 pm – 5.30 pm.

Presentation 1: Xiaoxiao Zhang
The Chinese Ugly Betty: TV cloning and local modernity”

In her presentation, Xiaoxiao Zhang will examine the themes inherent in the serial Ugly Wudi, a Chinese version of the Ugly Betty. Mainly by textual comparing the Chinese version with its American counterpart, her research analyses the modifications made by the producers in Ugly Wudi, such as the modifications to the ethnicity and homosexuality issues. It is argued that the modifications in the Chinese version are deliberately made to suit the local understanding and acceptance of modern television dramas. Unlike the American Ugly Betty, the Chinese Ugly Wudi is positioned within a more politically restrictive but rapidly liberalizing economic climate. Thus Ugly Wudi bears the marks of attempts to merge the demands of market forces with those of the paternalistic state, as its producers seek to embrace the global popular aesthetics of modern television dramas.

XioaXiao Zhangs presentation is based on a chapter of her dissertation entitled “Western Modernity and TV Cloning: A Case Study of the Chinese Version of Ugly Betty”. Based on this chapter, a journal paper has been published in International Journal of Cultural Studies (co-authored with Anthony Fung). Zhang’s presentation provides insights into the way Chinese producers deal with global television formats and the reasons accounting for it.

Xiaoxiao Zhang is a Ph.D. Candidate of School of Journalism and Communication, The Chinese University of Hong Kong. Her research interest mainly lies in TV study and cultural studies.

Presentation 2: Lars Lundgren
“Through the Iron Curtain: Early Transnational Broadcasting and Television Discourses”

In spring 1961 the Soviet Union broadcast live images through the Iron Curtain for the first time in history. The broadcasts suggested a possible future of television as an integral part of a symbolic struggle where images could travel without regard to national borders and political landscapes. In hindsight these broadcasts have earned a minor role in the history of transnational television, clearly overshadowed by the introduction of US satellite television a few years later. With this in mind the aim of the project is to understand how early Soviet transnational broadcasts at he height of the Cold War form the idea of television and thereby broaden the perspectives on transnational broadcasting by studying its early history in Europe. The analysis is organized around three types of material; 1) archive material from international broadcast organizations and four national broadcasters 2) the broadcasts in four national contexts; 3) contextual media material in four national contexts. The project address three urgent issues in broadcast history. First, it emphasizes the dialectics between the national and transnational contexts of broadcasting. Second, it historicizes perspectives on international broadcasting and place it in a transnational context. Third, it acknowledges not only western initiatives in transnational broadcasting but the relation between Western and Eastern Europe.

Lars Lundgren is senior lecturer in Media & Communication Studies at Södertörn University in Stockholm. His current research interest is directed towards early transnational television in Europe, with a particular focus on programme exchange across the Iron Curtain during the 1960s. He is currently heading the research project Through the Iron Curtain: Early Transnational Broadcasting and Television Discourses (2011-2014, funded by Riksbankens Jubileumsfond).

Lundgren received his Ph.D in January 2008 after defending his thesis “Culture and Transmission: The technological and cultural reach of international syndicated radio” at Stockholm University. The dissertation explores how internationally syndicated radio programme Solid Steel reach its listeners around the world. At the centre of the study lie questions of how to understand communication both as a means of bridging geographical distances and as the production of shared values and meaning in an international media culture.

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