Time magazine’s choice for person of the year in 2006 was telling for the changing nature of how many people live: It was “YOU,” or netizens who have used websites such as YouTube, MySpace and Wikipedia to create the content that is shaping how people watch, read, and communicate.
In China, the average people are using the Internet to have a bigger say in how they live.
Most recently, the trend is looking to have a major impact on how Chinese celebrate the upcoming Spring Festival, or China’s New Year.
Since 1983, the most important programme for most of China’s 340 million families on Lunar New Year’s eve (February 17 this year) is watching an entertainment show on China Central TV (CCTV), while having a big meal and drinking a variety of alcohol and beverages.
This year, however, many will have another choice: Watching a similar programme on the Internet with their favourite performances and stars, or even their own performances.
Mop.com, a popular online community, and Orient TV, a Shanghai-based minor competitor against CCTV, will stage an online Spring Festival gala show on March 4, the Lantern Festival.
At CCTV, which has to attract people of different ages, regions, and nationalities, their show includes a hodgepodge of different styles of entertainment, including folk songs, traditional opera, dance, ballet, and acrobatics.
For young people, the largest demographic population on the web, some of their favourite performers and programmes are believed to be too vulgar to appear on CCTV.
But the online shows on Mop and Orient TV provide a platform for these performers during the Spring Festival.
What’s more, users can even get their own homemade programmes on the show if they are good enough to get votes from netizens.
“The gala show of CCTV is a traditional one-way communication video programme, so viewers only watch and have very little say in choosing what they want to watch and have their views about the performances heard,” says Chen Yizhou, chairman and CEO of Mop.
“But users on the Internet are not just passive receivers–they are also decision makers on what to watch, and even actors in performances,” adds Chen, a pioneer of China’s Internet business in 1999 with the establishment of a hugely popular online alumni website.
The Chinese youth, different from their parents and more like their Western peers, are active and like to express their views to the public, which is fostered by new technology.
In 2006, the popularity of video websites like Mop offered every ordinary youth a chance to become superstars, by loading their own video clips, which often got thousands or even millions of views.
Google’s acquisition of video-sharing YouTube for $1.65 billion in October stimulated the enthusiasm for similar Chinese websites, and it seemed that almost overnight some 400 similar websites popped up in China.
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