The rise of regionalisation in the East Asian television industry: a case study of trendy drama 2000-2012

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


School of Communications and Arts


Faculty of Education and Arts

First Advisor

Dr Debbie Rodan

Second Advisor

Dr George Karpathakis


This thesis examines the contemporary Taiwanese television industry and its influence on the Asian TV market and popular culture in Asia. It explores the East Asian TV industry’s ability to produce a specific regional TV genre – that of trendy drama – as a means of representing the tastes and lifestyles of a new audience. I claim in the thesis that the East Asian TV industries have produced trendy drama for an emerging middle class audience in Asia. Trendy drama still is one of the most popular genres at the level of local TV productions; it can also be sold to an Asian regional audience. The main premise of the study is that the media has the symbolic power to centralise most social resources and technology, and because of that they can produce certain cultural meanings influential to ordinary people’s social and cultural experience. A study of the rise of regionalisation which specifically focused on the East Asian TV industry, has led to this case study of trendy drama. In the case study I analyse how East Asian TV industries produce and sell these types of local TV productions to a wider TV market. After the review of regionalisation literature, the study examines the specific content of the TV genre, trendy drama, within the context of the Asian TV market. This raises questions about the role of trendy drama and its function in the rise of regionalisation from political and economic perspectives. The answers to these questions are then used to examine the production of Taiwanese idol drama through a filmic and semiotic analysis. The earlier findings are supported by the television producers’ and directors’ (professionals’) practical insights into why and how they produce trendy drama for the Asian market. Macro- and micro-level approaches used in this study demonstrate the transition from a global television industry dominated by America to the way East Asian TV industries earlier on drew from the American TV industry’s values, technical knowledge and resources. However, ultimately the East Asian TV industry developed their own expertise which is why they now have the symbolic power to sell to audiences within the region. Furthermore, East Asian TV industries today have the ability to centralise enormous resources so they can produce culturally shared meanings, which is becoming part of popular culture in Asia. Consequently, the media’s symbolic power enhances the rise of regionalisation in East Asian TV industries. It is intended that this project will inform further debate about the changing configuration of television markets within the Asian region and the role of the media in mediating popular culture within the contemporary media age.

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