Saturday, June 18, 2011

Television in Malaysia

    When I lived in Boston I enjoyed having cable TV with many and varied channels to choose from. As all TV in the US is digital I became accustomed to watching all channels in HD. I had hoped that television in Malaysia was at least acceptable and in English.

    Upon moving in or new condo signing up for satellite TV was one of the first priorities. There actually was not any choice. It was Astro TV or nothing. The pricing was  quite reasonable. At that time HD or Astro Beyond was not yet available. We got the premium movie package as well as the package which included Discovery, National Geographic, CNN etc. This was all I needed and it was all in English. There are other local channels in Cantonese, Malay and Tamil as well. One of the premium movie channels, Cinemax, shows older movies, some of which are older than me. The other two offer standard fair movies like back home.

    After having Astro for a while I started noticing the small differences between television in the US and television in Malaysia. First of all in the US all channels, except for the public broadcasting channels include advertising of all kinds. It is rather annoying to be watching a program and having in interrupted by a commercial for automobiles, food or other products. Here in Malaysia there are extremely few  commerical ads. However, Astro advertises it's programing on all of the other Astro channels. They do this repeatably often with the same ad. It is very annoying. I don't understand why they do this as there is no competition. Along with the advertising being repeated, the programing is also repeated. So if you miss a program you can find it later in the day, the week or month.

    Another difference is that there are only stations in Kuala Lumpur, whereas in the US there are thousands of stations in cities of all sizes. I am surprised that in Penang, where I live, there is no television station. Penang, is roughly the same size as Boston and Boston has 8 stations. I do miss watching a local news program, as the local news here covers all of Malaysia. I now receive most of my local news from newspapers, which are not local either, except for the Chinese paper, which I can't read.

    The last difference I have noticed is that television here is censored. It is quite annoying to be watching a movie and suddenly the sound is muted as you realize the character has uttered something considered to be obscene. Portions of the movie also disappear, having been censored out. It is quite amusing sometimes to be watching Jay Leno and something he says, which in not vulgar is censored while something that may be vulgar slips by the censors. Probably because the censors are not familiar with American English and culture.  I only watch new programs on CNN, BBC and Al Jazeera as these are not censored, as far as I can see.

    These actually are only minor differences that one has to get used to. We download movies to watch, so the TV movie censorship does not bother us. In addition to the international news services I rely on the Internet for my news, so I get as many points of view as I can.  Now we have Astro Beyond, which is HD programing, which is quite good. Presently we don't have that many HD channels, but Astro seems to be improving their channel lineup.  All in all I am quite satisfied with Astro TV and I think it will become better in the future.

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