Friday, August 12, 2016
Monday, May 23, 2016
TVB did something this past week that I'm so pissed about, I have to write about it to vent my frustration (as if I haven't written about it enough already in various discussion forums and such, lol).
Anyway, the big entertainment news from this weekend was the huge fallout (second one in less than a decade) between record company Universal and TVB over copyright terms for using Universal artists' songs on TVB programs feature on their Internet channels (i.e. myTV, myTV Super, TVB.com). The way it works is that the record companies give TVB contracted rights to use their artists' music/songs for a period of 3 years and after that, the contract gets renewed if both parties agree on the terms. Well, TVB's latest contract with Universal expired on 5/1/16 so both parties got together to discuss contract renewal as they've been doing for the past few decades. TVB sent Herman Ho - the head of their own music label Voice Entertainment - to discuss contract terms with Universal's higher ups (I'll explain in a minute why I have a problem with this arrangement in the first place) and departing from usual terms, this time around, TVB put in a requirement that is at the same time ridiculous and impossible to fulfill. TVB basically requested that Universal sign over the exclusive rights to use their artists' songs FOREVER (yes, you read it right - the word used was FOREVER!) - which meant that TVB could continue to use Universal copyrighted songs in any program they feature on their Internet portals even after the contract terms are up without having to worry about getting copyright approval (which implies that they don't have to pay Universal royalty fees) and also that Universal can't allow other stations to use those songs. Universal of course said HELL NO (kudos to them!!!) and decided to not renew their contract with TVB (lol...the Universal execs reacted quite professionally - if it were me, I would've told Herman Ho to go to hell!) Based on the contract terms, TVB has 3 years from expiration date (so 4/30/2019) to either remove all Universal copyrighted songs from their Internet programs (which of course would be a lot of work) or take down the affected programs from their Internet portals entirely (note that these terms don't apply to programs aired on TVB's regular free-to-air channel). So basically, TVB was once again trying to be the arrogant bully that they are but this time, it backfired on them because Universal refused to bend to them.
I don't think any of us need to be rocket scientists to understand what type of impact this is going to have on the HK television and music industries. Herman Ho claims that TVB still 'welcomes' all Universal artists to participate in their programs provided their appearance doesn't violate contract terms (meaning there is no singing / music involved), however knowing TVB's track record, that is pretty much lip service, as we all know that TVB is petty and will now be 'banning' Universal artists just like they did during the royalty dispute 7-8 years ago. Besides, who the hell gave Herman Ho the right to speak for TVB as a whole when he's only the head of their record label? Oh, that's right - his wife is Sandy Yu, who, on paper, is only the head of the variety programs department (and is at the same level as Catherine Tsang, who is head of the drama department), but in reality, she is the actual one 'in power' at TVB now. Go figure! The fact that TVB sent Herman Ho to negotiate with a fellow record company is conflict of interest first of all (since both are heads of rival record companies) and it also reeks of insincerity on TVB's part -- if TVB CEO Mark Lee felt it was beneath him to negotiate with a mere record company, then at least send one of the GMs who oversee all production to negotiate with Universal...after all, the outcome of the talks will for sure impact all of TVB's programs, not just music-related ones. With this arrangement, TVB already started off on the wrong foot (though to be honest, I'm not sure whether this was a deliberate move on TVB's part to "pay back" Universal for opposing them so many times over the past few years or the current execs over at TVB are just dumbaxxxs who have no clue what they are doing....I personally think it might be a combination of both). The reason I threw that 'pay back' thing in there is because Universal's execs said that they've had the same contract with TVB for decades and the discussions have always gone smoothly, but this time around, TVB dropped that "forever" clause on them out of nowhere, which is what caused the discussion to go sour (why the sudden change in terms, TVB???)
The latest 'development' in this absurd saga is that as of yesterday, TVB (um, actually Herman Ho - but I guess he represents all of TVB now) was "crying a river" to reporters, claiming that Universal was the one being "unreasonable" by forcing TVB to take down/remove Universal copyrighted content within 3 years. How INSANE is that???? TVB is the one who started the dispute by putting forth a RIDICULOUS to the max requirement that NO ONE in their right minds would agree to - now when Universal says NO and proceeds with terminating the contract as per terms, TVB is trying to make themselves look like the victim by shifting the blame on the record company instead? WTF? Oh, but it gets better....in the same "crying a river" interview, Herman Ho goes on to contradict himself by saying that the 'impact' of this dispute to TVB won't be much at all, as 'only a handful of programs will be affected' (yeah, right!!!!). Um, if only 'a handful of programs' is being affected, why the bloody hell is TVB (via Herman Ho) trying to shift the blame to Universal? Herman Ho is actually outright lying, as it's obvious to anyone with a brain that the impact of this is going to be huge, especially since the copyrighted songs date all the way back to the 80s/90s (which includes all the songs under Polygram, which Universal bought out in the 90s). Even TVB's former GM Stephen Chan said that he hasn't been paying much attention to the details of the issue, but he knows for a fact that if TVB has to remove/take down all copyrighted programs, that will definitely be a huge problem for them. With Universal being one of the largest international record companies out there with practically half the HK music industry signed to them (including many of the industry's 'biggest names' such as Alan Tam, Jacky Cheung, Hacken Lee, Sandy Lam, George Lam, Eason Chan, Kelly Chan, etc.), it will obviously be TVB's loss if they don't rectify the situation and proceed to 'ban' Universal (as is widely speculated). Universal definitely does not need TVB, as they have a plethora of other options and platforms to promote their music (including TVB's rival free-to-air station ViuTV - which they already have collaborations with - as well as the cable networks and of course, internet platforms such as Youtube).
To be honest, I am actually a bit surprised that TVB would make such a bonehead, stupid move at such a sensitive point in time when their reputation is already in the toilet, their production quality is at an all-time low, artists and behind-the-scenes people are jumping ship left and right, and their own in-house produced singers (the Voice Entertainment crowd) are being heavily criticized for lacking actual singing skills. Also, in this day and age, with all the technology and resulting doors that have opened up with Internet platforms, there's no way that TVB doesn't know that the record companies have tons more options than they've ever had in the past to promote their artists' music. Does TVB really think they are that 'high and mighty' as to demand that the record companies collaborate ONLY with them and forego all other opportunities to make more money? What record company would be stupid enough to cut off a large part of their revenue source just so they can cater to TVB's ridiculous whims? (Ok, ok, I know that there ARE some record companies out there who would be willing to do it because they are so pro-TVB...not that I'm going to name names though, lol). What planet are these TVB execs living on? Like I said in another forum - either Herman Ho is deliberately trying to sabotage TVB's relationship with other record companies in order to boost his own record label or TVB has gotten to the "arrogant beyond saving" stage where they are stupidly flexing their power to see who will bend to them without giving a crap about the consequences.
Lastly...I don't think it's lost on anyone reading this that there will be one more 'consequence' that none of us HK television fans want to see happen: the television screen for the next 3 years (and perhaps beyond that) will essentially be 'dominated' by Voice Entertainment singers (argh, please kill me now...) and the JSG awards ceremonies will go back to being "the EEG + Voice Entertainment Music Awards". TVB just gave me more reason to stop watching their programs! I swear, TVB is slowly chipping away at the small circle of 'support' that I still have for them - if it weren't for the few artists and behind-the-scenes people I care about still working for TVB, I would've abandoned this station a long time ago.
Words of wisdom to TVB from a long-time 'follower' (me - though of course, not that TVB gives a damn, lol): Stop testing our patience with the arrogant attitude and pettiness! Despite the fact that you have let us down time and time again, many of us still continue to 'support' you to some extent because of sentimentality (and other) reasons. Stop taking advantage of your audiences' goodwill and stop treating everyone like brainless sheep who must adhere to your every beck and call. Let ATV be a lesson on how NOT to manage a TV station (though looks like it's too late for this one) because if you fall, it will be 100 times worse and the damage will be far-reaching....
Friday, May 6, 2016
Back in 2010, I started a book review series on a set of 3 book compilations called “Now and Then” (從零開始). The books are written by veteran Mingpao reporter Wong Lai Ling where she essentially compiles all the interviews she has done with numerous celebrities over the past 3 decades and adds her personal anecdotes to create a semi-biographical first-person account of her experiences with those celebrities. She covers many aspects of the celebrity’s career as well as personal life, often including her own personal stories and background information on HK entertainment history. As a means of clarification, Wong Lai Ling is NOT the average unethical entertainment gossip reporter that we see way too many of nowadays -- she was actually a pretty reputable and respected reporter back then and still is even now. I feel this clarification is important, especially in this day and age when it’s so easy to become jaded with the endless trash and false reports that the gossip rags dish out daily about celebrities big and small. I don’t want people getting the wrong impression that this is just another one of those gossip rag compilations because it is absolutely NOT! Granted, some of the stuff mentioned in the books may not be 100% true, since it IS from a reporter’s point of view after all, plus there will undoubtedly be certain biases and perspectives that not everyone will agree with (i.e.: I had read some Anita Mui fans’ comments that they didn’t like how the segment on Anita talked more about her family than about her career – personally, I didn’t have a problem with it, as I felt the way the author put that segment together actually helped to highlight even more how great of a person Anita was despite having such a horrible family). At the end of the day, each person’s interpretation and opinion will be different and there really isn’t a right or wrong in my opinion….
I will say that one of the things I appreciate about this book series is the fact that Wong Lai Ling tries, as much as possible, to include all or part of the original interviews that she had done with the celebrities themselves (so readers can hear from those celebrities directly) – she also provides background information on each interview, which helps chronicle each celebrity’s thoughts and feelings during that time and in some cases, even helps to explain why some of them made certain decisions that they did. It pretty much reads like an extended story, complete with pictures from Mingpao’s photo vault that accompany each chapter in a chronological timeline format.
Another thing I like about this book series as opposed to other entertainment books released in recent years is that its focus (for the most part, with the exception of the 3rd book) is on veteran entertainers from HK’s ‘golden age’ time period, written by a reporter who actually experienced that era and knew these celebrities personally. In recent years, I’ve seen too many newer reporters who have no knowledge of that era outside of what others have told them -- they try to write about these celebrities and oftentimes, the stuff they put out lacks depth and substance (some of it even amounts to mere ‘hearsay’, since many of those reporters weren’t even born yet when most of these celebrities were most active in the industry). Having been one of those people who personally experienced that ‘golden era’ of HK entertainment myself, it kind of irks me to read watered-down accounts of that era from people who will never understand how things were truly like back then. This is why I love reading stuff from veteran reporters such as Wong Lai Ling (as well as her other counterparts at MP such as Tsui Yong Yong, Charles Chak, etc.), as it brings back so many great memories of that era and essentially takes me on a fantastic journey down memory lane.
There are a total of 3 books in the series and each book focuses on 10 celebrities (for a total of 30 celebrities, though some of the books have ‘bonus’ material that is in addition to the regular content – such as the third and final book of the series where Wong Lai Ling writes a special tribute to Leslie Cheung, whom she had known for over 20 years and was close friends with – she had actually already written about him in the first book, but since the third book was written around the 7th anniversary of his death, she decided to put in a special chapter in honor of him).
I started writing a review series for these books on my blog back in 2010 and got through a handful of celebrities, but then I started getting really busy with life and work, so never got around to continuing the series. In addition, with the amount of detail in the books and how picky I am about my writing and translations, doing this review series was actually quite draining on me, which is another reason why I haven’t picked it back up the past few years. With all that said though, I’ve received a tremendous number of inquiries about the series the past couple years, with the interest level peaking especially in the last 2 to 3 years due to the HK entertainment industry reaching such a dismal state and more and more people jumping onto the nostalgia bandwagon (which, of course, I don’t blame them for since there truly is nothing much worth ‘following’ nowadays in the HK entertainment industry).
Because of the above, I feel that I owe it to the dedicated readers and followers of my blog to revive this review series again. However, instead of continuing where I left off 5 years ago, I would like to get feedback from you guys, on which celebrities you most want to read about. Just to be clear though, there will be a few caveats, as there are celebrities that I really don’t care much about, so I prefer not to waste time writing about them, especially given how much time it takes for me to get one of these posts done (though being soft-hearted that I am, lol, if there are celebrities in this category that you absolutely are dying to read about, let me know and I might consider doing a brief, condensed version – but it will be way lower priority).
Here’s the list of celebrities featured in each of the 3 books. The ones I already wrote about are in BOLD (planning to hyperlink the posts that I wrote, but won’t get a chance to until later – meanwhile, if you’re interested in reading these, please click on the ‘Now and Then’ tag in the sidebar to access the posts).
Please feel free to indicate your choices and any other feedback in the comments section.
**Note: Celebrity names are not listed in any particular order!
Jacky Cheung (I only did a partial writeup though – I plan on doing a more in-depth piece later on)
Leslie Cheung (I will probably update later with the additional ‘special tribute’ that Wong Lai Ling wrote a few years after the first one)
Wong Kar Kui (Beyond)
Tony Leung Chiu Wai
Maggie Cheung Man Yuk
Chow Yun Fat
Anthony Wong Yiu Ming
*plus special tribute to Leslie Cheung
Monday, May 2, 2016
Sunday, April 3, 2016
Thursday, March 17, 2016
Tuesday, March 15, 2016
Finally! Jacky attended Filmart yesterday to promote his new movie Heaven in the Dark (which premieres in HK on 3/24). During one of the interview sessions, he confirmed that his concert tour will kick off in October as originally scheduled (refuting recent rumors that his concert was being put on hold due to legal disputes with his former concert manager Florence Chan). The first few stops will be in Mainland China (not HK as previously rumored). As for when the HK shows will take place, Jacky said the earliest would be in December.
The official announcement from Universal hasn’t come out yet (they issued a statement today refuting rumors but didn’t go into detail about the concert itself), but according to Jacky, Universal will be making a formal announcement with more details very soon.
As I’ve done in the past, I will be posting up information about Jacky’s concert dates and venues as the information comes out, so definitely stay tuned! Also, I will be amending this post later on with a few links to news articles/clips where Jacky talks about his concert.
Lastly, in related news, in addition to preparing for his concert, Jacky has been busy the past few weeks promoting his new movie Heaven in the Dark. Since my last post a few weeks ago, there have been tons more promo material released about the movie, including another trailer, a few behind-the-scenes production clips, and more than 2 dozen interviews with various media outlets. I’m working on getting all the info together so I can post it up on my blog, but it will take some time, since there is so much stuff out there now. Those interested please check back later this week. Thanks!
Thursday, March 3, 2016
BREAKING NEWS: It's curtains for ATV: Liquidators to shut down ailing broadcaster tomorrow after Hong Kong court decision cleared the way
Tuesday, March 1, 2016
There has been quite a lot going on in the HK television industry as of late, so I felt it would be appropriate to give a quick update. Note that this is just a quick summary and not meant to be all-inclusive, so please bear this in mind in case I may have missed anything in my post.
ATV shutdown: To pull the plug or not to pull the plug….
The biggest news from today and yesterday is the shutdown of ATV. Deloitte, the company tasked with liquidating ATV, was given orders to immediately shutdown ATV yesterday – in fact, they went as far as having a meeting with all of ATV’s remaining employees and handing them termination letters on the spot. The last step was a scheduled press conference to announce the immediate shutdown to the public – but that was stopped by a last minute court order that ATV’s Mainland investor Si Rongbin was able to get whereby Deloitte must hold off on their actions until Thursday when the court will convene to determine ATV’s fate. [This is the ‘in a nutshell’ version of what went down – for details, read this article from SCMP].
And so, ATV will continue to be in operations for another 2 days at least (maybe longer depending on which party the court sides with). Honestly, this whole ATV thing has gotten so stupid that it defies the depths of logic. I personally hope that the court sides with the Deloitte people and ATV gets shut down immediately – I would rather they put everyone (ATV’s workers as well as all us audiences) out of our misery than continue to let those bastard execs at ATV continue to play their stupid games. I guess we will have to wait until Thursday at 10am HKT to see whether we’ll have to continue putting up with this sorry excuse for a TV station for another month!!
ViuTV launch: TVB’s ‘non-competitor’….for now at least
Now that NowTV/PCCW finally has their free-to-air license, the plans to launch their new station ViuTV is underway. The official launch date will be on April 6th (though there will be what they call a ‘soft launch’ on 3/31 where those who have NowTV set top boxes will be able to start receiving the service) and they’ve already held a press conference detailing their programming plans. I’m going to save the details for another post, but just know that from day one, ViuTV is not going to be anywhere near a competitor for TVB, as their target audience and market will be completely different. ViuTV will be targeting the younger audiences who have pretty much already stopped watching TVB and ATV – their programming will consist of primarily variety programs (or what they call “factual entertainment” programs). The general manager of ViuTV said that their intention is to give HK audiences a different option and made it clear that their target audience is “the local Cantonese-speaking audience who read traditional Chinese instead of simplified” (LOL…obvious jab at TVB’s recent bonehead decision to use simplified characters for their newscasts instead of traditional ones, sparking a record 10,000+ complaints to the Communications Authority). In addition to focusing on variety, news, and children’s programming, they will also air TV series from other countries (i.e. Thailand, Japan, Korea). How about local Cantonese dramas, you might ask? ViuTV says that they ARE going to begin producing dramas, but only selectively. The first drama that will be part of the lineup (not sure if the drama has already been filmed or it is being filmed currently – will need to read up more on it) is called Margaret and David, which is a drama adapted from a famous novel. The series will star Bowie Lam and Catherine Chau.
Reading through the details of their programs, the show that I found most interesting and I think will resonate with audiences (and kudos to ViuTV for daring to attempt this) is Travel With Rivals – a travelogue show that will pair up rivals from the political and entertainment worlds and have them go on outings together. The ‘pairings’ that have been announced so far are: Legco president Jasper Tsang paired with controversial legislator Leung Kwok-hung (better known as ‘Long Hair’); 100Most co-founder Roy Lam Yat Hei paired with legislator Ann Chiang Lai Wan (they represent opposite ends of the societal spectrum – the youths pushing for HK’s independence vs the pro-establishment camp advocating solidarity with China); singer Denise Ho is paired with actor/singer Zac Koo (this one is obvious – Denise is a lesbian who is also an outspoken proponent of gay rights while Zac is a devout Christian who is also a known homophobic and very vocal about his beliefs). I am curious about this show, primarily because it is so different and controversial and it will be interesting to see how things play out – most importantly though, this is the type of show that TVB will never ever make even if you gave them a billion dollars (for this reason alone, the show is worth watching in my book!).
TVB ‘myTV Super’ launch: same old crap from a soon-to-be 'legitimate' monopoly
TVB has confirmed that their new internet platform myTV Super (which sounds to me like nothing more than a glorified version of their current myTV channel) will officially launch on April 18th. The platform will feature 20 channels with programs ranging from TV series, music shows, news casts, infotainment shows, variety shows, etc. and will be in high quality digital format with the ability for audiences to re-watch programs of their liking. In terms of TV series, the plan so far is to air a few of their new series (that Season of Love series is already scheduled to premiere on day one) plus a long lineup of ‘outside’ series that TVB bought the airing rights to from Mainland China, Korea, Taiwan, and Japan. What I’m most curious about is whether they will air ‘classics’ on this platform (i.e. old TVB series and variety programs from the 70s/80s/90s) – there have been rumors from the HK media that TVB will air ‘old’ shows, but since TVB has yet to confirm it, I won’t bank on that being true just yet. Oh, one ‘caveat’ that is very important to mention – this will be a subscription-based platform, which means that those audiences who were looking for a free service are pretty much out of luck (I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who finds it ironic that TVB is now going to charge audiences for formerly ‘free’ content).
In my opinion, this myTV Super thing is a desperate ‘money-grab’ attempt by TVB – sorry if this sounds harsh, but I honestly don’t know how else to describe it. Most of the stuff that TVB is planning to put on the platform is stuff that is currently already accessible to all audiences. Sure, they claim that they are going to air some new, ‘innovative’ programming content (such as a show that will allow artists to put their own creative ideas into production and interact with audiences), but to be honest, given TVB’s track record and their ‘policy’ of avoiding controversy, I highly doubt anything will come of this. At this moment in time, I will be interested in myTV Super ONLY if TVB does end up going the route of airing their classic series and variety programs on the platform, as that content is definitely worth paying for – otherwise, why should I pay to watch their current series, especially when majority of those series nowadays are crappy?
For those of you wondering, there is still no word from i-Cable on what their plans are for their free-TV launch – in fact, the Communications Authority has said that the government already requested a detailed proposal from i-Cable and have given them a deadline to provide the information in order to ‘keep’ the license that was granted to them ‘in principle’. Of course, given how badly the government mishandled the ATV thing (don’t even get me started on how poorly managed the whole ATV shutdown movement was, as I could probably complain for hours about it), I wouldn’t be surprised if i-Cable continues to remain in its ‘limbo’ status indefinitely.
Also still no decision on the new free-to-air license applications that were submitted (by David Chiu’s consortium and also the resubmitted application from HKTV). Not sure if we will hear something next month, since the government has basically been using the ATV shutdown as an ‘excuse’ to not make a decision yet (the argument is that they need to wait until the April 1st license revocation deadline that they gave ATV – once the license is officially taken away and thereby ‘available’, then they can make the determination on who should get that license). While I’m sure that once April 1st rolls around, people are going to start asking what will happen to the license, I highly doubt that the current administration is going to respond with anything specific…my guess is that they will try everything possible to continue stalling until next year so that if there is any backlash that results (which there undoubtedly will be), the incoming administration can deal with it instead of themselves.