Cinema and Media Studies Asian Television
Anthony Fung
  • LAST REVIEWED: 22 September 2021
  • LAST MODIFIED: 22 September 2021
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199791286-0174


In the early 21st century, studies of Asian television have become an important and significant research area in the fields of media studies, communication, cultural studies, comparative literature, and Asian studies. These studies range from empirical studies in the social sciences to textual interpretation in the humanities, from television production to TV texts, from TV audiences to reception studies, from television policy to media systems, and from the globalization of television content in Asia to inter-Asia cultural flows, traffic, or circulation. Because there are fundamental differences in the TV shows and content broadcast in various Asian countries, few disciplines, programs, and departments are under the umbrella of “Asian TV studies” in terms of broadcasting language, programming, genre design, regulation, ideology, and media systems in the region. Instead, most current studies on Asian TV have focused on individual countries that have high levels of complexity in terms of their media and politico-economic systems. These studies can be found in the section Asian Television by Region. Predominantly, these studies are on television dramas, while a smaller number of studies have focused primarily on TV commercials, and more recently, the study of digital television has become the focus. Thus, the separate section Studies of TV Commercials is included. Studies of television dramas in Asia do not greatly diverge from such topics in the United States and Europe, in which gender issues are a major concern (in addition to class). Thus, the section Gender is included in this article. Because of Asia’s historical legacy, since the rise of TV studies in Asia, macro comparisons and studies of the format of television dramas based on globalization and postcolonialism remain important areas of study.

Asian Television by Region

For the most part, television and media are more developed in Asian countries with strong economies than in their weaker counterparts. Thus, the study of TV focuses largely on economically strong nations, including China, Japan, and Korea, as well as Southeast Asia. Comparative studies have also been conducted among these countries. However, because of the great diversity of topics studied by scholars in different disciplines, such as communication, cultural studies, and linguistics, the research in this area is never complete, and increasing focus is placed on the content of TV entertainment programs (with a few exceptions on TV news) and audience consumption, primarily by employing a qualitative approach. There is also an increasing trend toward focusing on transnational consumption or inter-Asian cultural flow in the region (e.g., Iwabuchi 2004, cited under Japanese TV). Such studies generally discuss the Korean wave or Hallyu (which has spread throughout the entire region), the increasingly common consumption of Chinese dramas among Chinese in mainland China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong, or the historically strong influx of Japanese TV animation in all Asian regions. Because of this cultural flow, these television programs have become common cultural texts among Asian audiences in the region. The influence is sometimes subtle because TV programming across Asia has started to clone itself, or it has adopted the formats used in neighboring countries, with concomitant adaptation and hybridization. TV studies that investigate the inter-Asian cultural flow aim to gauge the effects of this unprecedented, large-scale Asian phenomenon. There are also trends that explore the new digital television platforms that compete with Netflix in Asia.

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