Asia's Tv Picture Is All Wiggly Lines

The currency crisis is clobbering a once booming industry

For Ashish Chawla, a TV producer in Singapore, 1998 was going to be the year his company hit the big time. The vice-president of UTV International, a $60 million startup partly owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp., had plans to produce 500 hours of TV shows in Indonesia and other Asian countries--a fivefold increase over last year. Then the currency crisis hit. With networks strapped for cash, satellite operators retreating, and competitors merging, UTV is now finding few buyers for its programs. It has stopped producing entirely in Indonesia--where the rupiah has plummeted 80% since last July. "My margins in Indonesia are completely wiped out," sighs Chawla. "There is no point in doing a production there."

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