Experts weigh in on Oscars and Critics discuss causes, repercussions of bans on Academy Awards broadcast in Hong Kong.

News that this year's Academy Awards won't be broadcast in Hong Kong - the first time the ceremony hasn't been shown on local TV there in 50 years - is raising censorship concerns.

English-language Hong Kong newspaper The Standard suggested that the Oscars ban was also in response to Chinese filmmaker Chloe Zhao's critical comments about China and her multiple nominations for the awards this year.

Media regulators in Beijing, according to Bloomberg news, have ordered state-controlled media on the Chinese mainland to not carry the Oscars live and to ''playdown'' any reporting on the awards.

TVB, Hong Kong's top free-to-air-broadcaster, which is aptly owned by mainland business interests and is seen as very pro-Beijing, this week said it was dropping its planned coverage of the Oscars, an event it has carried live on its English-language every year since 1969.

Beijing : Wary of critics

TVB said the move was made purely for ''commercial reasons'', suggesting no one in Hong Kong would be interested in watching. This seems odd, particularly this year, when two Hong Kong films are Oscar contenders.

No 'Nomadland' in China?

The most ''offensive'' quote stems from an interview Zhao gave to New York's Filmmaker magazine nearly a decade ago.

Whether the director meant to critique an authoritarian government, or just express the universal nature of teenage angst, is open for interpretation.

Critics beware.

Nomadland isn't alone. Many see the response against Zhao and the Oscars as part of a broader trend within the mainland government to pressure Hollywood into telling more pro-Chinese stories and to blackball any directors demed critical of Beijing.

The Hollywood Reporter quoted insiders familiar with the Chinese industry that Beijing was tightening up its control of US imported films and responding to supposed anti-China criticism from directors.

A big market for Hollywood.

China has major leverage over Hollywood because of the sheer size of its market. If Beijing blocks a film from mainland release, that can mean millions, even hundreds of millions of dollars in lost box office revenue.

That leverage is even greater right now, with China's cinema's open for businesses, theaters in many countries remain shut because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The irony, with regards to Zhao and Nomadland, is that China could have used the Oscars to score major points. Zhao has the opportunity to become the first Chinese director to win the Academy Award for Best Picture.

Unlike Ai Weiwei, she's not a public dissident. Zhao's father used to run a state-owned steel company in China. Her stepmother, Song Dandan, is a beloved TV sitcom actor. Zhao's Oscar glory would have made for the perfect piece for state propaganda.

If only Beijing wasn't as determined to control the narrative.

The World Students Society thanks authors: News Desk, The Express Tribune.


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