Sound Off! – Television

TV in Taiwan drives me nuts (let’s not even discuss Thai television!). What really strikes me as odd is the fact that while Taiwan is so very technologically advanced, and Taiwanese people are used to being on the edge of emerging technology, the cable television systems here provide such poor quality entertainment that I am very surprised people put up with it. Taiwanese are so technologically hip that you can walk through the store with your Taiwanese pal, and s/he will be able to tell you anything you wanna know about the latest MP3 player, digital camera, mobile phone, computer or gadget. But, that same person will go back home and watch probably what is one of the worst cable television signals I’ve ever experienced, not to mention the programming quality of the on-air product.


The other Hui-chen asked the cable guy why our audio isn’t in stereo, this being the 21st century and all. His reply was that the local cable company’s equipment is so old that they cannot distribute the programming in stereo. Another thing about the sound that bothers me is that every channel has a different audio level. Some channels are so low that you have to turn them up to hear the dialog, but when a commercial ad comes on, it blows your set off the stand! Channel surfing can be a painful experience as some audio levels are very high while others are almost non-existent.

Now, before you dismiss my diatribe as just another foreigner complaining, please understand that this author is a former VP of Engineering for the #2 talk radio network in the USA. I know a thing or two about networks. It’s not that difficult to balance the audio on a distribution network, but you have to care enough about it to do it.

Let’s take a look as some of the things that really bug me about Taiwan television. Feel free to Sound Off! yourself about any of these, or others things that bug you too.

  • So Much Crap On The Screen!
    • It is really necessary to have a vertical banner with the name of the show displayed during the entire duration of the program? It takes up about 20% of the right side of the screen!
    • I’m paying for my television programming, so please keep that yellow scrolling garbage off the top of my screen!
    • Chinese subtitles on everything. Yeah I understand why they do it. I still don’t like it. The problem could be addressed by using SAP (but then that would require stereo capability).
    • I feel like I’m looking through the center of a dirty window because of all the crap around the edges of the screen. When I play a DVD I am amazed at just how nice my 32″ LCD HDTV really is. It’s wasted on cable television.
  • Repeat Programming
    • HOW MANY TIMES CAN A PERSON WATCH GOD OF GAMBLERS??? OMG if I see that movie on one more time I’m going to hack my TV to bits! Even the Western networks like HBO and Cinemax repeat the same junk over and over! The actual number of movies in rotation is very small, and the truth is, most times when I feel like watching a movie on TV, I’ve seen it before. And I don’t mean I saw it on a DVD or in the theater. I mean I saw it on the same movie channel, yesterday. Yeah, The Tuxedo is a great movie. So is Marked for Death but they get more airplay than they deserve.
    • Every “B” movie that Hollywood ever made is shown in Taiwan on a regular basis. No wonder they think we’re weird. How about some more great movies?
  • Horrible Editing
    • How may times have you watched an English language show, and had the scene cut at a critical point in the audio dialog? People who don’t understand English are reading the dialog in subtitles – they are not listening to the program (I think this includes the editors!). So sometimes, readers of the dialog are ahead of those who are listening to it. I’ve watched shows were the dialog was flashed on the screen in a big block, but the actors were drawing it out for dramatic effect. The last few words, often critical to the scene are sometimes cut off. That would only matter to someone who was listening to the original language. Another result of the subtitles is that many times my wife will laugh before the person says anything funny. She read what the character was about to say, before they actually said it.
    • I don’t think that I have ever seen a commercial television advertisement broadcast in it’s entirety. I’ve seen thousands of 5 second clips though. See the next item.
  • Low Production Values
    • Why do most local ads have such distorted audio? I find it utterly amazing that any business would pay for a television ad that sounded so bad you want to turn off the TV.
    • These low production values also contribute to the lazy editing. The on-air product really sucks, with all the false starts and cut off ads. I wouldn’t pay for that kind of advertising of my products or services. The attitude does not help these local businesses.
    • Intros, and more intros! Breaks during movies are retarded. They come back with a slide, and about 5 seconds of music. Then, they fade to yet another slide and even more music. Why there is a double intro is beyond my ability to comprehend.
  • Frequency of Stop Sets
    • I’m not sure what they are called in television but in radio, we call the ad breaks “stop sets.” Some of the late night movies have sets about every 6 minutes. That’s just asking to have viewers get pissed off and go to bed. Not Smart.
  • Dumb Censorship Standards
    • While watching movies I have heard the most filthy language broadcast out in the open, in English, without censorship. But you will never see even a single tit – even on cable television late at night. So while it’s OK to call a woman the “C” word (which I find absolutely disgusting) you cannot appreciate her beauty if she happens to have her top off. Go figure. I find the language more offensive personally. Even movies that have broadcast on cable (and sometimes even in open broadcast) television uncensored in the US for more than 20 years, mosaic masked or scenes are cut completely. Are Taiwanese people that offended by mature programming (I doubt it, as every hotel has adult movies available, many for free) or are the censors using an archaic standard?
    • The same language used in the movies is all bleeped out when broadcast on other networks such as The Discovery Channel for example.

I guess what I am getting at is that I expect more from Taiwanese television than I’m seeing. The people are putting up with standard of entertainment that is beneath them.

What is your view? Please feel free to comment.

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  1. Are you saying you’re not a fan of Meteor Garden? 😀

    Don’t forget being able to see wrestling, bad US talk shows(I wonder how those idoms and slang could be translated into subtitles), seems like graphic sex and violence are OK for Hong Kong and Japanese shows on Taiwanese TV but I’ve never seen anything similar on a Taiwanese show. At least YOYO TV is good for the kiddies.

    owshawng’s last blog post..Penang, Malaysian and Thai Cuisine

  2. One of the things that amazes me is the prevalence of violence towards women in the local soap operas. Men are always slapping, hitting, pushing and shoving women to create those crucial moments in a drama.
    Every time I see it it just makes me rile.

    Stephen Fewings’s last blog post..Diabolo

  3. A few years ago I read that big changes were going to take place in Taiwan’s cable TV industry “in the next few years”. But nothing seems to have happened yet. I also read that many of the cable companies have been sold (or are going to be sold) to American companies at very high prices – NTD 14,000 per customer! At that price I don’t think the new cable company owners are going to be spending more money to improve their packages, especially as Taiwanese don’t expect more anyway. I hope I’m wrong.

    naruwan’s last blog post..Out and about on my bike

  4. I enjoy reading your posts, but I find it ironic that you’re complaining about ads covering the screen on your television, when reading your site is quite annoying due to the pop-ups and animated ads distracting from (and words flashing across) the text I’m trying to read. Of course, blogs are different from TV, but one key difference is that, while there are a billion blogs out there, here there are usually only one or two cable services to choose from.

    Poagao’s last blog post..Barbarians at the Gate

  5. Poagao » while it might seem ironic, there is madness in the method. i’m not sure what you mean by popups because there aren’t supposed to be any ad popups, but the ads don’t “cover” the viewing area like they do on TV. my wife and i will be watching CSI and some yellow scrolling crap covers up the top of the screen. so that reduces the viewing area by other margin. i’m also complaining about the structure of those advertising sets. they are just built wrong and the editing is horrible. i don’t mind so much if they are properly constructed. i find many Taiwanese ads to be clever and entertaining, but the technical presentation is nearly always annoying.

  6. naruwan » you touched on a good point – why are the expectations of Taiwanese viewers so low? they can get anything they want, but they have to make it happen. it might be a fear of paying more money. that is a huge consideration in this country. it’s amazing what people will put up with just as long as there is no price increase. thanks.

  7. The pop-up appears at the top telling me to go vote in a survey and lags when I scroll. The ad box below the google ad boxes causes blue words to fly across the screen across the text into the little box, and many of the other ad boxes, such as Text Link and BIT, are animated, which is distracting if you’re trying to read. The advertising makes the content hard to distinguish as the main element on the page.

    Poagao’s last blog post..Barbarians at the Gate

  8. Stephen » oh yes, you make a very good point. others such as Vern and Brunty have commented on how violent Thai television is, and especially towards women. recently i read about a gang of 16 y/o youths who raped and killed a young girl. the reason that they did it has been suggested to be linked to a frequent television theme: the thug rapes the woman and later she falls in “love” with him. i have no idea why a rational society would portray that happening, but it really makes a statement about the society. young men in Thailand are learning that if they don’t get what they want, just rough her up or threaten her with a knife or gun. Taiwan is not as bad as Thailand, but watching Taiwanese shows, and the imported Korean and Japanese shows makes me think that these are “hitting societies” where people express themselves by striking one another with their hands or objects.

  9. owshawng » somehow i think i’m fortunate not knowing what Meteor Garden is! idioms and slang are a big problem. my wife finds problems with the translations in those cases (i’ve explained much slang meaning to her). i’ve never seen sex portrayed graphically on Taiwanese television, but i’ve seen people killed in every way imaginable by every creature from every planet, along with mad humans.

    one thing that i forgot to mention is the proliferation of cartoon shows. i see grown adults watching kid’s cartoons at restaurants and i’m baffled by that. even the so-called “Action Network” has cartoon shows in prime-time slots. ???

  10. Poagao » the line at the top is a way to make announcements. it appears once per browser session. so if you click the close button to the far right, it will not reopen.
    the blue words is the Ad-link system. that, like most of the other commercial aspects is experimental. funny you should mention that as i’m considering removing it. thanks for the input.

  11. Disclaimer – I don’t like TV anywhere, not just Taiwan.

    About the only time I watch TV is when I’m in a hotel (and occasionally the news during a typhoon). To me, the programming is quite terrible as you mentioned. Constant repeats etc. But what bugs me the most is when they cut to a commercial in the middle of a scene. No waiting for the end of a scene like is normal. And then, during the ad break, extremely bad low-budget ads for a local KTV or restaurant or something cut in over the regular ad programming. Very, very annoying. I did read somewhere that the local ad companies pay the cable companies for a certain amount of ads and it’s up to the cable company as to which channel to run the ads on. Which is why these annoying little local ads seem so prevalent on the English language channels – they are the least watched channels, so placing the ads here means that less viewers get offended by them. Not sure how true that is.

    cfimages’s last blog post..Merida Cup @ Shetou, Zhanghua

  12. Craig » you did an excellent summary for me! what this tells me about local ads is that there is no verification program. in the US there are companies that monitor and record radio and TV in order to actually count the number of times a certain ad has been played, so the advertiser can verify that they got what they paid for. i know that if i paid for a local ad in Taiwan i would be pretty pissed off by the poor quality and false starts/cutoffs. i also bet that there is no recourse through verification. i’m the kind of person who would record several hours on DVD and then review it for ads. it’s pretty clear that people aren’t doing that here.

  13. I’m still giggling. So true. So true. I stopped watching TV when I moved to China because there wasn’t any English content. Then I moved to Taiwan. At first it was an exciting thought to have cable TV again after three years. Then I saw how bad the cable service is here and started my blog instead. I rarely watch TV here for most of the reasons mentioned above. Personally, I don’t like watching TV anywhere. The service might be better in North America, but the content is crap. There are a few good shows, but nothing I’d stay home for.

    Carrie’s last blog post..To Luang Prabang, With Love

  14. MJ a great post my friend. So you have to take everything you said for Taiwanese TV and X5 and then you get the better Thai TV shows. I am lucky though as my cable provider has some decent channels.

    As for the local Thai crap, it should be banned and the directors and writers locked away. When you touch on censorship, it’s the same here with no nudity being shown on local TV but you will see the occasional nude scene on cable.

    Here they blur a person holding a cigarette or alcohol out of any shot. But they show men hitting women and putting guns and knives to their heads and throats. There are so many stupid censorship things here in Thailand.

    In a movie called “Music and Lyrics” starring Hugh Grant. There is a scene at the end of the movie where he and a girl are singing on a stage and in the background is a huge Buddha statue. It is wrong to use a Buddha image in this way so in this scenes its blurred out and everytime Hugh or his sidekick walk into the Buddha area they are blurred out as well. It’s hilarious.

    ThGreat post MJ.

    Brunty’s last blog post..Thailand. Redecorating a village house.

  15. Brunty » glad to have you back, man! you went through living hell with your food poisoning episode. at least, as you say, your cable provider has some decent channels. here, those would be Discovery and National Geographic. pretty much everything else is the same. i can count the channels we watch and they are 12.

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