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The Chinese Oscars, Brought to You by Rupert Murdoch

Actress Gwei Lun-Mei kisses her award for Best Actress for the film Gf * Bf at last year's Golden Horse Awards

Photograph by Wally Santana/AP Photo

Actress Gwei Lun-Mei kisses her award for Best Actress for the film Gf * Bf at last year's Golden Horse Awards

It’s the Chinese world’s answer to the Oscars. Tomorrow night the stars of the Chinese film industry will gather in Taipei for the Golden Horse Awards. Ang Lee, who won the Academy Award earlier this year for Life of Pi, is chairing the jury and will be on hand to give out the prize for best picture.

Broadcasting the awards to the U.S. will be Rupert Murdoch’s Star Chinese Movies channel, according to Fox International, a subsidiary of the billionaire’s 21st Century Fox (FOXA). “SCM is the only network to broadcast the awards event on such a wide global scale,” the company said in a statement, “and this move is in line with FIC’s ambitious goals to deliver and promote premium Chinese content to audiences across Asia and internationally.”

The Fox broadcast will be a first for the Golden Horses, the company boasts, and is “evidence of the growing popularity and power of Chinese content outside of Asia.”

Ironically, the broadcast also comes about a month after Team Murdoch gave up on China’s TV business. On Oct. 17, Fox announced it was selling its remaining 12.15 percent stake in China-focused broadcaster Phoenix Satellite Television Holdings (2008:HK) for HK$1.66 billion ($214 million) to private-equity group TPG Capital.

While Fox is retreating from attempts to crack China’s TV market, it and other Hollywood studios still see plenty of opportunities in movies. For instance, 21st Century Fox is teaming up with Bona Film Group (BONA) to produce four Chinese-language movies. In part, that’s because the Chinese film market is growing so fast: Ticket sales increased 27 percent, to 10.3 billion yuan, in the first half of the year.

Another reason is China’s censors are not as concerned about movies as they are about TV shows. “The movie industry is still small and relatively easy to manage from a regulators’ perspective,” says Simon Twiston Davies, the chief executive of media consultancy SimonTD & Associates in Hong Kong and formerly head of Casbaa, the trade association for Asian cable and satellite broadcasters. With movies, “you don’t have the sheer number of channels and outlets, so it may be that regulators can see they know how to control this. You have a regulatory structure that allows the censoring of movies to be more efficient.”

“Television,” he adds, “is harder to keep in the bottle.”

Einhorn is Asia regional editor in Bloomberg Businessweek’s Hong Kong bureau. Follow him on Twitter @BruceEinhorn.

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