Voice of Asia E-paper December 15, 2017

Page 14



FRIDAY, December 15, 2017

India bans condom advertiseSeeking music edge, Apple buys ments from prime time television song recognition app Shazam


pple said Monday that it would buy leading song recognition app Shazam in a fresh bid to secure an edge in the intensifying battle of streaming services. Apple, whose streaming service has rapidly grown but still has only half the paid subscribers of Spotify, said that Shazam has consistently been one of the most popular items on its App Store. The two companies did not disclose financial terms. The technology news sites Recode and TechCrunch, quoting unnamed sources, both put the deal at around $400 million.

An Indian volunteer holds an umbrella decorated with condoms during an event to mark International Condom Day


EW DELHI, India | AFP - India has slapped a nationwide ban on television ads for condoms during prime time hours, citing rules prohibiting “vulgar” content and concerns over children viewing salacious material. The information and broadcasting ministry ordered India’s estimated 900 television channels to restrict condom commercials to between 10pm and 6am, threatening repercussions if the ads fall outside graveyard hours. “All TV channels are hereby advised not to telecast the advertisements of condoms which are (a) for particular age group and could be indecent for viewing by children,” the order said Monday.

It also cited broadcasting regulations prohibiting “indecent, vulgar, suggestive, repulsive or offensive themes”. India’s public and private television channels beam into nearly 183 million households across the country, data from the Broadcast Audience Research Council industry group shows. Advocates for birth control warned the blackout risked undoing decades of progress on sexual and reproductive health. The Population Foundation of India, a Delhi-based nonprofit, said condoms were one of the few methods available for family planning and encouraged men to also take responsibility for birth control. “What we need is a more

sensitive approach without compromising on information and advocating for sexual and reproductive choice,” the charity’s executive director Poonam Muttreja said in a statement. Sex remains a taboo subject in India, a broadly conservative and traditional country, and condom ads have stirred up controversy in the past.


EIJING, China | AFP | China’s box office may be booming but its domestic films are struggling to find vast audiences abroad, Asian cinema experts said Tuesday, as the world’s second-largest economy seeks soft power to match its growing economic clout.

In September, India’s largest trading body successfully lobbied for condom billboards featuring a former porn star to be pulled down in Gujarat state, citing religious sensitivities. In lodging its protest, the trade body accused the condom manufacturer of putting “India’s cultural value at stake” by promoting contraceptives on the eve of a Hindu festival.

But Shazam has struggled to find a way to make money off its technology, even as it said that it had reached one billion downloads on smartphones last year.

for the Asian Brilliant Stars awards -- a cinema prize held in collaboration with the Berlin Film Festival -- film fans outside China are put off by Beijing’s insistence on championing politically correct movies, as well its strict censorship system. “Foreign prizes are much more likely to go to Japanese or Korean films, many of which are dark, about sex and violence, or the coldness of human nature,” said jury member Manfred Wong, a Hong Kong producer and screenwriter. China’s patriotic blockbuster “Wolf Warriors 2” shattered the country’s box-office record and became the first non-Hollywood film to break into the top 100 all-time grossing movies worldwide, but the receipts were almost all domestic

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Meanwhile, London-based Shazam said in a separate statement: “We can’t imagine a better home for Shazam to enable us to continue innovating and delivering magic for our users.” Shazam, which was founded in 1999 in the early age of online music, has offered a solution to a longtime agony of listeners -- putting a name to elusive songs. With a click, the app identifies tracks playing on the radio, at parties or as background music.

Earlier this year China’s patriotic blockbuster “Wolf Warriors 2” shattered the country’s box-office record and became the first non-Hollywood film to break into the top 100 all-time grossing movies worldwide.

According to jury members

“We have exciting plans in store, and we look forward to combining with Shazam upon approval of today’s agreement,” it added.

Shazam only recently said it had become profitable thanks to advertising and to steering traffic to other sites such as Spotify and Apple Music.

tion has become even fiercer.

The technology is also no longer quite as novel, with Shazam facing rivals such as SoundHound and with latestgeneration smartphones capable of ever more advanced recognition functions.

YouTube, the video-sharing behemoth owned by Apple’s rival Google, also has its own music streaming platform and recent reports said it was looking to launch a new paid subscription package next year.

- Tech battle turns to services

Shazam has already proven it can be woven into another service. A year ago it formed a partnership with SnapChat, the youth-driven social media platform whose videos evaporate, with users able to “snap” to friends the music they discover around them on Shazam.

Apple, which revolutionized online music a generation earlier with iTunes, in 2015 launched Apple Music as the market turns to streaming, which offers unlimited on-demand listening. Apple said in September that the service had more than 30 million subscribers -- a quick rise, but still trailing Spotify. Spotify -- which has emphasized a bare-bones, user-friendly interface instead of unique features -- said it had 60 million paying users as of July and 80 million more on its free tier. And with streaming experiencing rapid growth, competi-

Asian cinema award jury hits out at Chinese film industry

by Becky Davis

But the receipts were almost all domestic and the flagwaving action movie -- along with other big hitters like last year’s co-produced “Great Wall”, starring Matt Damon -- have largely failed to appeal to cinemagoers and film juries abroad.

“Apple Music and Shazam are a natural fit, sharing a passion for music discovery and delivering great music experiences to our users,” Apple said in a statement.

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“But because of China’s censorship system, there simply aren’t those kinds of films here,” he explained, stating no jury wanted to award “warm

movies full of positive energy”. “Wolf Warrior 2” -- which centres on a group of Chinese soldiers saving war-ravaged Africans from Western baddies -- is China’s official Oscar submission for best foreign language film. “China’s trying to promote its concept of ‘cultural self-confidence,’ but that (Wolf Warrior 2) was an instance of excess self-confidence,” Wong told AFP after a press conference. China’s ruling Communist Party operates one of the world’s strictest cultural censorship regimes, subjecting all the movies it releases to intense vetting for subject matter deemed offensive or politically sensitive.

Retail giant Amazon seized on its vast consumer reach as it launched its own streaming service last year.

Neil Saunders, managing director of GlobalData Retail, said the Shazam sale “underlines the fact that the battle of the technology companies is firmly moving beyond hardware and into services.” “This is a good move for Apple that helps to consolidate its already strong position in music content. It won’t be the last takeover of a tech firm by these big giants,” he said “Economically speaking, many Chinese industries and companies can now compete or have even surpassed foreign counterparts, but when it comes to culture, there’s still a big gap,” said Richard Shen, organiser of the awards, which are held in February and seek to popularise Asian movies in the West. But jury member Shozo Ichiyama said he felt film distribution rather than censorship was the greatest challenge facing mainland cinema. “I think the biggest problem for filmmakers is that there are practically no cinemas here to show their work in. It’s a real problem and cannot change quickly,” he said. China has overtaken the US for number of cinema screens, but most of its theatres are multiplexes that show only commercial movies, squeezing out all others.

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