HK Time Out Magazine – Column #20

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I’m currently contributing a short, light-hearted political column to Hong Kong Time Out Magazine. Below is the uncut, original version of my latest piece…

Digital Distractions
If your response to today’s news was “when is this coming out for Playstation 3?”, then it’s probably a sign that the industry is in trouble. When Next Media’s CGI animation of what may have happened to Tiger Woods went global, it prompted much journalistic head-scratching and ethical beard-stroking over what it all means and how we’re all doomed. Many rightly believe the online videos to be a lowest-common-denominator attempt for the traditional press to make money in a time of poor sales, free alternatives and crisis point ad revenues.

HK tabloids already push standards of integrity and decency with their ‘infotainment’ thirst for gore regardless of victim’s families. Too often, violent, invasive photos grace the front of newspapers resembling a horror movie. However, what is most worrying is that these new virtual re-enactments present us with a potential version of the news. Local serial entrepreneur billionaire Jimmy Lai is behind the ‘Action News’ trend, employing 160 software engineers in Taiwan to motion capture 20 faux-news sequences a day.

Taiwanese media regulators have already fined Lai and banned CGI broadcasts on TV insisting they harm children and ‘trample human dignity’. Browsing the videos on Apple Media, I find that I’m quite able to imagine how “Movie actor arrested for brawl at bakery” unfolded without a crap Virtua Cop 2 dramatisation. However, I wish I’d never been forced to visualise “Man sentenced for murder, necrophilia and dismemberment” – I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry, though I certainly felt slightly dumber afterwards.

It is a shame that HK’s last editorial stand for democracy is Lai’s highly dubious Apple empire, but any further regulation would infringe upon freedom of the press. Unfortunately, we can only hope the fad doesn’t spread, as I’m sure none of us would care to stomach the latest political sex scandal in glorious high definition 3D.

Time Out Column - 20.1.10

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