Like a version? balancing the foreign and domestic in imported television drama

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


A prevailing global hegemonic argument is that certain powerful countries impose their values on other countries through the television texts they export (Barber 1995; Miller et al. 2001; Read 1976; Tunstall 1977). Smaller nations, following this logic, are forced to become familiar with foreign television forms and content which erode their sense of the local. Alternatively, the notion of ‘glocalization’ suggests that rather than finished programmes, formats that are popular in foreign contexts can be remade for domestic audiences to make them more accessible (Robertson 1995). In this paper, I argue that there is often another alternative to these models; an ex post facto creative re- imagining of an imported foreign text designed to make it locally popular without local audiences being forced to accept foreign values or local producers having to remake it. By looking at the local reception of Asian television series in the East and West and with a particular focus on The Water Margin’s (NTV, 1973) textual transformation for broadcast on the BBC as a case study, the paper will explore how television dramas have commonly long been (and continue to be) reconfigured for the domestic market, transformed, watched and consumed with little regard for any inherent message that the original producers wish to instil. Rather than cultural proximity being the guiding principle behind the adoption of foreign television, it will be argued that a sense of ‘cultural approximation’ often comes into play in the localization of television content deemed otherwise too foreign for local consumption. In order to make comprehensible unfamiliar genres, social and cultural practices, stars, styles of acting and so on, series are often transformed via dubbing, generic labelling or simply through disguising the text’s origins. Such measures take place so as to suggest cultural proximity, circumvent national prejudice and/or overcome cultural discount in order to take advantage of audience fondness for the recognizable and familiar.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusUnpublished - Jun 2015
EventTV in the Age of Transnationalisation and Transmedialisation: A Two Day International Conference - University of Roehampton, London, United Kingdom
Duration: 22 Jun 201523 Jun 2015

Academic conference

Academic conferenceTV in the Age of Transnationalisation and Transmedialisation
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


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