Program Summary for Shaun Seow CEO, MediaCorp News Ltd., 2003 Eisenhower Fellow from Singapore As the CEO of Media Corp News, Mr. Shaun Seow is responsible for the general operations of News Channel Asia (www.newschannelasia.com), the first 24-hour English speaking news network for an Asian audience produced by an Asian company. Since its start in 1999, News Channel Asia has grown to be the source of television news in the South East Asian region, serving 15 countries and 10 million homes, not to mention the company’s ever-growing web presence. Priding itself on quality news programming and solid journalism from offices around the world, Channel News Asia is poised to become a major player in the news business. Mr. Seow’s career as a journalist and a businessman has prepared him to lead his company to that end. This is an interesting time for the news business. Internally, there has been a battle between profits and content – how does a network remain profitable without relying totally on feature stories? Externally, questions regarding perceptions of minorities, a backlash against a real or perceived media bias towards the left, and the use of television news to shape public opinion more than ever before have all affected the way news is reported. Mr. Seow used these issues as the focal point of his Fellowship: to survey the media’s place in American social and political life. Mr. Seow’s visits during his Fellowship focused on stations with deep ties to the local community. The multicultural programming at WYBE in Philadelphia was a perfect match for this. In addition, Mr. Seow visited Telemundo (Latino) in San Jose as well as KTSF (Chinese) in San Francisco, both stations which cater to the needs of a specific group in their community. Public television, like WGBH and NHPTV in New Hampshire and affiliate stations such as WCVB in Boston and WRC in Washington, also figured prominently in this regard. As a whole, these smaller stations gave him perspectives relevant to the CEO of a Singaporean media firm: how to meet the needs of your core audience, but still make appeals to increase viewership in the region as a whole. Mr. Seow also used his Fellowship to explore the perception of minorities in the US media. To this end, he focused on speaking with representatives from various ethnic organizations in the United States, such as the American Muslim Council and the Japanese American Citizens League. These appointments allowed Mr. Seow to look at America through the eyes of “the other” in American society. For example, Mr. Seow was surprised at the popularity of an Asian-American television show that showcased Asians as gang members, mocking the image of Asians as quiet and “good.” Audiences craved this show, which dramatically altered perceptions of Asian-Americans, proving that media can be used to destroy some of the same stereotypes it helps to create. Mr. Seow’s Fellowship was hurt and helped by two major world events during the course of his stay: the US invaded Iraq and a new, non-fatal but easily contractible disease, SARS, consumed Asia. The war forced the cancellation of a few meetings while the SARS epidemic had at least one appointment panic at the last minute and give Mr. Seow to his vice president. However, Mr. Seow is the first to admit that as a reporter, he could not have come to the United States at a better time. An unseen bulk of his Fellowship experience was spent watching TV news and following local papers to look at how the patriotism surrounding the war sometimes usurped actual coverage and the media feeding frenzy on SARS, which virtually made Chinatowns across the country come to a halt. One would be remiss discussing his program without including this important angle. At this critical point in his career, the Fellowship experience allowed Mr. Seow to expand in a number of ways. With News Channel Asia poised for growth, this experience came at a crucial time, as the network prepares to become a real force in the news media market. Undoubtedly, Mr. Seow’s Fellowship contacts and experience will be vital to this growth. Personally, the experience altered Mr. Seow’s opinion of Americans, a new paradigm which will be reflected in his editorials and editorial decisions in years to come. From the fear and jingoism concerning SARS and Iraq War, to the people in small towns like Concord, NH and at the American Muslim Council all pursuing their own version of the American Dream, Mr. Seow saw Americans at their finest and their most ugly. Mr. Seow’s ultimate question: just who are these Americans?, was an underlying theme of his entire program. Hopefully, his in-depth interactions with Americans from all walks of life proved to him that this is a question not easily answered.
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