FME, Asian Union pact for factual programs

Joint venture will be called Vision Ventures Media

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CANNES -- Fremantle Media Enterprises and Chinese media firm Asian Union have inked what they're terming the first-ever factual programming joint venture in China.

Making the announcement Tuesday at MIPTV, the new partners said the new company, Vision Ventures Media, has three aims: to program a Vision-branded factual block across China, to source Chinese content for international distribution, and to co-produce television programming for local and global markets.

The joint venture is based in Hong Kong and therefore not subject to mainland China's foreign investment restrictions on production companies in China.

Several productions already are in development, including documentaries on iconic Chinese characters Confucius and Sun Tzu, Asia Union executive director and president Liu Xiao Lin said.

The joint venture also is in talks about a factual series with state-owned educational broadcaster CETV.

Asian Union, one of the co-production partners on "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon," is part of an increasingly confident Chinese media market determined to play a stronger role on the global media stage.

Record Chinese attendance at this year's MIPTV market -- which drew more than 260 participants -- is being coupled with unprecedented marketing, including the first-ever banner for a Chinese company (China International Cartoon and Animation Festival) outside the Palais.

In his keynote address at MIPTV's China Focus forum Tuesday, Tian Jin, vice minister of the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television, wooed foreign producers and investors. "China greets you with open arms," he said.

That openness does not extend to policy amendments, which still severely limit the role foreign investors are allowed to play in China's media. Co-productions between mainland and foreign companies will be negotiated on a case-by-case basis.

While Tian didn't put a timetable on possible changes, he also didn't rule out a looser environment for international media companies.

"It's step by step, not one giant step," he said.
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