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Research Proposal - Satellite Broadcasting And It's Influence On Chinese Youth

Satellite Broadcasting and its influence on Chinese Youth


Rationale and Contribution

Description of Topic

Television is not simply an entertainment medium; it has the ability to communicate the norms, rules, and values of a society. Gerbner, Gross, Morgan, and Signorielli (1986) state that the major social function of television lies in the continual repetition of patterns (myths, ideologies, facts, relationships, etc.), which serve to define the world, legitimize the social order, and cultivate cultural values. In a similar vein, Ball-Rokeach and DeFleur (1990) state that mass communication can play an important part in creating the conditions for development of values and value priorities. When substantial viewing time is devoted to programs from another culture, these effects become more salient. Moreover, multi-channel cable environment have transformed television viewing. Most of the aforementioned options are entertainment oriented, and have served to move the television viewing experience from programming pares to a more control-based consumption experience that involves an active audience. While cable television was the major factor leading from traditional broadcast programming to more specialized control-based viewing in the 1980s and early 1990s. (Krugman & Rust, 1987, 1993)

The majority of media consumption takes place in the home and the family represents a primary consumption unit. Previous research suggests that family life provides an important context by which to study media technologies (Lull, 1988). While most research on in-home media technologies has concentrated on the television and its related technologies (Brody & Stoneman, 1983; Kubey & Csikszentmilhalyi, 1990; Lodziak, 1986; Lull, 1988), researchers have also recognized the importance of studying the role of newer media technologies. Research on the role of media technologies, most notably television, suggests that media may facilitate social interaction, namely through group viewing and television "talk." Sparkes (1983) noted that television viewing is largely a social activity often conducted in groups. More advanced media technologies related to television, such as cable, have also been conceptualized as social technologies (Harvey & Rothe, 1985; Krugman & Johnson, 1991; Levy, 1987; Levy & Gunter, 1988; Lindlof, Shatzer, & Wilkinson, 1988). An industry survey (Haran, 1995) illustrated the socializing power of the television and VCR combination: of 1,000 people interviewed nearly half (47.7%) said that they watch television with their family and 44% said they watch movies and videos together.  

Rationale for choice of Topic

Children approach television and watch it with motives significantly different from what is common among adults. Most adults, by their own admission, watch television to be "entertained."(Blumler and Katz, 1975; Rosengren et al, 1985) Most children, while they find television entertaining, watch because they seek to understand the world. Many adults see television as trivial; they watch it with what is sometimes called a "suspension of disbelief" To be entertained, they accept departures from realistic portrayals, and, depending on the premises of the program, understand why someone is flying through the air, becoming invisible, performing superhuman acts. Fictional drama, by definition, need not be possible, real, or true. Children, while enjoying the entertaining aspects of television, because of their limited understanding of the world, have greater difficulty in separating fact from fiction. (Hutson et al, 1992) They are vulnerable in a way that adults are not. The primary influences on children-family, peers, school, and television--all function together. Children are not very expert in separating what they learn in these different contexts. Indeed, the utility of information obtained in one is partly dependent on what is learned in the others. Without family support, much of what occurs in school loses its importance. If schools were more effective, television would not be so powerful. Peers exert their influence and power to the extent that family and school do not.

A considerable number of research studies describe how television generates mostly negative, but also some positive influences on youth. Some link the recent surge in violence on our streets to watching televised violence (Centerwall, 1992; Palermo, 1995; Rosenberg, O'Carroll, & Powell, 1992; Huesmann, 1982). Others believe that unhealthy eating habits and accelerating rates of obesity result from sedentary television viewing and observing commercials promoting high fat, high calorie foods (DuRant et al, 1994; Goldberg et al, 1978; Gortmaker, et al, 1996; Taras et al, 1989). Television viewing has been associated with teenagers' involvement in risky behaviors (Grube & Wallack, 1994: Klein et al, 1993). Others indict television as the cause of poor academic achievement among youth.

Furthermore, a study on attitudes about commercials found that children watch from 5 to 69 hours of television per week, with a mean of 34.2 hours (Ferguson, 1975). Another study on parent's perceptions of television reported that children watched an average 14 hours a week, with a range between 1 to 56 hours (Bernard-Bonnin et al., 1991). Elementary school children are said to watch two to three hours of television per day. However, there are considerable differences among children from study to study (Anderson et al, 1985; Stanger, 1997; Tangney & Fesbach, 1988).

It the intention of this paper to specify the effects of satellite broadcasting on the youth of China, particularly on the effects of American television shows on the intended respondents. China has experienced rapid economic growth during the past two decades, more than any other large country. That this growth has occurred in an economy that is changing from one that is centrally planned to one that is market-driven and in a country with the largest population in the world is big news to the business community worldwide. To compete for the attention and buying power of its growing number of middle-class consumers, foreign and local companies are increasing their advertising as well as television expenditures in China (Song and Wong 1998).

An important reason Chinese children attract attention from Western marketers is because Chinese consumers in general, and Chinese children in particular, have aspirations for Western lifestyles (Ha 1996). Moreover, they are less culture bound than their parents and therefore more open to Western lifestyles and accompanying products. An underlying rationale of targeting Chinese children is that, if they accept a Western product concept, they will not only influence their parents' preferences, but also may carry their own preferences into adulthood (McNeal and Ji, 1999). To successfully target this group, however, is not an easy task because of the barriers that may be created by the major cultural and language differences that exist between the West and China. One effort that might provide some guidance to Western firms wanting to participate in China's youth market is an examination of the content of current advertising targeted at Chinese children that would explain and describe the role of culture in it, as is provided herein.

Numerous authors have noted the centrality of values to cultural integrity (Hofstede, 1980; Rokeach, 1973). Chinese society has been strongly influenced by Confucian principles of harmony and hierarchy (Hofstede, 1980; Ting-Toomey, 1994). Confucianism describes four principles enabling society to survive and prosper: Jen (Humanism), Yi (Righteousness), Li (Propriety), and Chong (Wisdom) (Yum, 1988). These broad principles still guide Chinese people's behavior in seeking harmony in relationships with others and social integration (Ng, 1998/1999). In dealing with people, Confucius describes a number of virtues such as courtesy, persistence, patience, and sincerity) that allow for open and harmonious interpersonal relationships. Confucius stressed the importance of maintaining hierarchical relations as well as harmony. In order to maintain social stability, Confucius advocates that social hierarchical orders be observed and respected. Thus, if the outer side of Confucianism is conformity and acceptance of social roles, norms, and orders, the inner side is cultivation of conscience, morals, and character for the sake of stability and hierarchy. However, these values are receiving increasing competition from alternative sets of modern values such as pleasure, individual achievement, and beauty.

Outline of key literature

Television as well serves as a tool of mediation in households. Attempts have been made to unambiguously classify the various styles of television mediation in which parents engage. Across all of the studies reviewed, four general television mediation strategies have been recognized, although not consistently, nor simultaneously. The first style of television mediation in which parents may engage has been called restrictive mediation, also called at times rule making (Atkin et al., 1991; Bybee et al., 1982; Nathanson, 1997). In this style of mediation parents set rules for viewing or prohibit the viewing of certain content. For instance, parents may set specific viewing hours for their child, or forbid the child to watch a particular program. The second style of television mediation has been called instructive, sometimes referred to as evaluative or active mediation (Austin, 1993; Bybee et al., 1982; Nathanson, 1997). This style of mediation refers to the process of discussing certain aspects of programs with children, either during or after viewing. Examples of instructive mediation are parents' explanation of things that happen on TV, that certain shows are unrealistic, or characters do those good or bad things. The third style of mediation is coviewing (Dorr et al., 1989). Coviewing refers to occasions when adults and children watch television together, sharing the viewing experience, but not engaging in any discussion about the program. Coviewing is considered a form of mediation, because it has been shown to have positive effects on children. Research has indicated, for instance, that parents and children report feeling closer to one another after participating in coviewing (Bryce & Leichter, 1983), and children learn more about human relationships from a family program when they coview with parents than when they view alone (Dorr et al., 1989). The fourth style of mediation is unfocused mediation. The concept of "unfocused mediation" was originally identified by Bybee et al. (1982). They developed a 14-item scale that resulted in a three-factor solution -- restrictive, evaluative and unfocused mediation. The authors described the unfocused mediation style as a style that included an unstructured, relaxed approach to television on the part of parents. The original Bybee et al. (1982) scale was subsequently used by other researchers (Abelman & Pettey, 1989; Van der Voort et al., 1992; Van Lil, 1995; Weaver & Barbour, 1992) and has become one of the more frequently used measures of parental television mediation.

Substantial scholarship has focused on the relationship between the media and cultural values. For some, the goal has been to illuminate the ways in which particular media messages reinforce and propagate existing cultural values (Carbaugh, 1988). For others the primary interest has been in the ways in which the media may operate as a threat to existing cultural values. Many critical scholars claim that foreign media play a significant role in changing indigenous value systems and cultures. It has been suggested that Western media can affect economic values by increasing desire for Western-produced goods and services (Beltran, 1978; Vilanilam, 1989). Similarly, media critics have suggested that social values are changed (Virulrak, 1983). For instance, Dorfman and Mattelart (1972) described the ways in which comics like Donald Duck might influence Latin American school children to be more individualistic, competitive, and materialistic. Such influences have also been suggested in political values (Masmoudi, 1979) and aesthetic values (Dissanayake, 1985; Virulrak, 1983). Unfortunately, scholars have rarely investigated the relationship between viewing foreign-produced media and cultural values from a social-scientific perspective.

Furthermore, another mode of thinking regarding the effects of media is Gerbner's cultivation theory. It is one of the most important and widely applied theories addressing the effects of media on beliefs and values (Gerbner, 1990; Morgan & Shanahan, 1998). According to Gerbner (1990), "cultivation means the specific independent (though not isolated) contribution that a particularly consistent and compelling symbolic stream makes to the complex process of socialization and enculturation" (p. 249). Or put more simply, "the cultivation hypothesis states that the more television people watch, the more likely they are to hold a view of reality that is closer to television's depiction of reality" (Zaharopoulos, 1997, p. 31).

While cultivation theory's origin was in the study of violence, it has developed to cover other beliefs and values about the social world that are cultivated by television viewing (Gerbner et al, 1980; Pfau et al, 1995; Slater & Elliott, 1982). Concurrently, Potter (1990) studied high school students in the United States and found that some values commonly expressed in television shows are more strongly endorsed by heavy versus light viewers, although the effect sizes were small. Reimer and Rosengren (1990) also found small but significant relationships between television viewing and values in a Swedish sample.

Studies on the relationship between media exposure and values outside of Western cultures are relatively rare, despite Tan, Tan, and Tan's (1987) argument that such study is essential in the face of increasing foreign penetration into developing countries' television programming. Tsai (1970) found a relationship between television viewing and attitudes towards American culture in Taiwanese students around the time when American television began to gain a strong foothold in the Taiwanese market. As is the case with many such studies, Tsai did not differentiate between domestic viewing and imported viewing. Tan et al. (1987) found that frequent viewers of American programs in the Philippines were more likely to endorse American values, such as pleasure, and less likely to endorse traditional values, such as forgiving, than infrequent viewers (Kang & Morgan, 1988; Morgan, 1990). In contrast to some of this work, Elasmar and Hunter (1998) conclude that the effects of foreign media tend to be small and that value-based selective viewing rather than media effects may account some for. Research examining media effects in China is unusual because China limited communication with most of the world for about 30 years. Even after China normalized its economic and political relations with other countries in the late 1970s, foreign media penetration was minimal and the sources were limited to some socialist countries (Wang & Chang, 1996). With the recent development of China's open-door policy, the volume of imported television has increased along with the diversity of program categories and national sources. Wang and Chang (1996) report that by 1990, China was importing movies, drama series, children's programs, sports, and documentaries, which comprised 30% of total programming. Of these, 73.6% were from developed capitalist countries. The Chinese government censored imported television programs, especially pornographic and "anti-social" genres. However, research shows that these policies may not have been very effective. To illustrate, Pan and Wei (1997) examined value change in China in relation to media exposure and found that exposure to imported films and television programs was related to "reduced concern for fulfilling one's family responsibilities, a greater desire for free choice in mate selection, and higher degree of hedonism" (p. 15). They concluded that Western entertainment media eroded traditional Confucian values and increased the salience of individualistic values. Television programs are reflections of social, cultural, and political ideologies in general. Imported television programs present different life styles and goals to Chinese viewers. From a cultivation perspective, we believe that the more viewers watch imported television, the less they will endorse traditional Chinese values.

In the mid and late 1980s the Chinese household proverb changed from Mao's politically oriented terms ("Socialism's weeds are better than Capitalism's crops") to Deng's pragmatic terms ("Regardless whether it is a white cat or black cat, it is a good cat if it can catch mice"). Chinese television programming mirrors the current socio-economic reforms and demonstrates current Chinese people's desires, struggles, and expectations in the process of economic reform. Domestically produced media also reflect the increasing competition from imported media, which has resulted in the increasing presence of nontraditional themes (e.g., consumerism, romantic love, pleasure) in Chinese-produced programming (Zhao, 1999). This trend is exacerbated by the recent liberalization in China. For example, Zhang and Harwood (2001) examined value themes in Chinese television commercials using content analysis procedures. They found that several modern value themes (modernity/technology, beauty/youth, and enjoyment/pleasure) were used frequently in Chinese television advertising (Cheng & Schweitzer, 1996) in addition to the traditional values (e.g., family, patriotism, and tradition). After examining and analyzing current television programming in modern China, Zhao (1999) argues that Chinese television programming has been pushed by market competition, and that consumerism and hedonism are prevalent themes. In the competition between marketization and state control, the problem for Chinese television in the late 1990s is "no longer excessive state control but over-marketization" (Zhao, 1999, p. 302). Due to this trend in the Chinese television industry, we predict that the more time people spend viewing Chinese programming, the less they will endorse traditional Chinese values, though the cultivation effects of imported television may be stronger. The current study will examine these predicted negative relationships between exposure to imported and domestic television and endorsement of cultural values in China by examining these two research questions. It is hoped that this will inform us as to whether programming origin has consequences for cultural values.

Cultivation theory has not been without its critics (Hirsch, 1980; Hirsch 1981; Pares, 1986; Potter, 1986; Potter, 1993; Wober, 1986). A full review of the criticism is not appropriate in this context; however, two critiques are particularly relevant to the current study. First, the role of various demographic variables has been addressed repeatedly. Some research findings indicated that the simultaneous control of socio-demographic variables could reduce or eliminate cultivation effects (Hawkins & Pingree, 1982; Hirsch, 1980). Therefore, the current research will control for the effects of sex, age, and respondents' urban or rural background.

Statement of the Problem

Accompanying China's growing economy is an increase in the number of single-child families due to the one-child policy adopted by the government in 1979 (Zhang and Yang 1992). Not only does China have the largest population, it has the largest population of children less than 15 years of age (Population Reference Bureau 1995). Even though China has instituted severe limits on the number of children a family may have, there are still approximately 27 million babies born each year, or approximately the population of Canada. In just the urban areas of China, where 95% or more of families have only one child and where market-driven economies are functioning, there are more than 90 million children under 15 years of age, as compared with around 60 million for the entire United States. These only children often are described as "little emperors or empresses," because they are the primary focus of their parents and grandparents and receive practically anything they want. In just the large cities of China, they are give n more than $3 billion annually from their parents to spend as they wish, and more important, they determine approximately 68% of their parents' spending, perhaps the highest rate of influence in the world (McNeal and Yeh 1997). Consequently, a growing number of local and international marketers target children in China to get a share of their economic clout. American firms are particularly interested in the Chinese youth market, especially major marketers such as McDonald's, Nabisco, KFC, M&M Mars, and Kellogg's. For example, it is estimated that television advertisers spent $13 million in 1995 targeting Chinese children ages 4 to 12 years, much of which originated with U.S. consumer goods firms (Bromby 1996). This is also apparent in the emergence of satellite broadcasting. The youth of China leisurely shifts to a Western preference especially through the materialization of American television shows.

It is thus the intention of this study to investigate the effects of satellite broadcasting and American television programming in China. Specifically, the study seeks to answer the following questions:


1.    How do the Chinese adolescents perceive American television programming available through satellite broadcasting?

2.    What are the factors that contribute to the appetite of the Chinese youth to Western programs?

3.    What are the specific genres of television programs do the adolescents watch?

4.    Does the Chinese youth who have the access on Western television programs through satellite broadcasting assimilate virtues of the western culture? 


Research methodology and techniques for data collection

The site for this research is Chengdu, the capital city of Sichuan province and a cultural, economic, and political center of the upper Yangzi region. It is also a fairly typical inland city, with a long historical and cultural tradition. Chengdu maintained a much more traditional culture and lifestyle than did the cities of coastal, northern, and even central China-such as Shanghai, Beijing, and Hong Kong-that have received more attention from communication scholars.

The descriptive research method uses observation and surveys. In this method, it is possible that the study would be cheap and quick. It could also suggest unanticipated hypotheses. Nonetheless, it would be very hard to rule out alternative explanations and especially infer causations. Thus, this study will use the descriptive approach.  This descriptive type of research will utilize observations in the study.  To illustrate the descriptive type of research, Creswell (1994) will guide the researcher when he stated: Descriptive method of research is to gather information about the present existing condition.  The purpose of employing this method is to describe the nature of a situation, as it exists at the time of the study and to explore the cause/s of particular phenomena. The researcher opted to use this kind of research considering the desire of the researcher to obtain first hand data from the respondents so as to formulate rational and sound conclusions and recommendations for the study.

The research described in this document is based solely both qualitative and quantitative research methods. This permits a flexible and iterative approach. During data gathering the choice and design of methods are constantly modified, based on ongoing analysis. This allows investigation of important new issues and questions as they arise, and allows the investigators to drop unproductive areas of research from the original research plan.

The primary source of data will come from interviews conducted by the researcher. The secondary sources of data will come from published articles from social science journals, theses and related studies on training and organizational development as well as those dealing with psychology and other behavioural studies.

For this research design, the researcher will gather data, collate published studies from different local and foreign universities and articles from social science journals; and make a content analysis of the collected documentary and verbal material.  Afterwards, the researcher will summarize all the information, make a conclusion based on the null hypotheses posited and provide insightful recommendations on the dealing with the viewing behaviour of the Chinese youth.


Proposed subject population and sample

A target sample of 100 households with 10-12 grade students will be studied, composed of 20 households in each of five major satellite program receivable districts in Chengdu. Given the inherent difficulties in winning the confidence of respondents and asking to be given both access to people’s homes and a claim on their time, the researcher shall be seeking the aide of a local organization in order to facilitate the interviews.

Drawing on semi-structured interviews and discussions with youngsters in Chengdu, this paper aspires to explore the complex relationships between audiences and television, and to map out some dimensions of the fluid terrain on which identities are constructed and reproduced within urban popular culture in China.


Data analysis techniques

The researcher will tally, score and tabulate all the responses in the provided interview questions. Moreover, the interview shall be using a structured interview. It shall consist of a list of specific questions and the interviewer does not deviate from the list or inject any extra remarks into the interview process. The interviewer may encourage the interviewee to clarify vague statements or to further elaborate on brief comments. Otherwise, the interviewer attempts to be objective and tries not to influence the interviewer's statements. The interviewer does not share his/her own beliefs and opinions. The structured interview is mostly a "question and answer" session.


Project time plan

The time line for this study is as follows:

Month 1 to Month 3: Focus groups will be used to understand how the youth of China perceive Western programs on television.


Month 4 to Month 6: In-depth interviews with the adolescents of Chengdu will be conducted in order to understand the views of the young adults.


Month 7 to Month 9: Similar studies will then be reviewed, and a new one tailored to the needs of Chengdu will be proposed.


Month 10 to Month 12: Write-up period.



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