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In Tune With Asia : With Cable Companies Unable to Meet the Demand, Chinese Expatriates Now Count on Satellite TV Broadcasts to Satisfy Their Craving for News and Views of Their Homeland.

July 23, 1995|DENISE HAMILTON

"People recognize us when we go to the mall, they come up and say: 'How are you? We watch you every day,' " says Anne Hu, a TV news co-anchor for North American TV.

But the station also wades into American news. During the Midwest floods two years ago, North American TV raised $120,750 for flood victims during a three-hour telethon.

While Jade Channel airs U.S. news, it concentrates on overseas affairs. One recent day, employees edited a Chinese tabloid version of "60 Minutes." Using hidden cameras, TVB news crews in Thailand had captured footage of young women from Mainland China working as prostitutes in fancy Bangkok hotels. The show would air that night.

At the TVB studios, most employees are U.S.-educated Hong Kong natives. The average age is 27, and the hip, young staff does everything from repair decoder boxes to dub voices and write subtitles, using Chinese-language software. Office vending machines carry longan fruit drinks as well as Coke.

With the Pacific Rim booming, both firms see prosperity in their future.

"The Chinese market in the United States is growing fast," Tam says. "Since many Chinese in the United States . . . retain their Chinese language, we feel there is a great void we can fill."

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

How Satellite TV Works

* TV stations in Asia send programs to a commercial satellite orbiting the earth.

* The satellite transmits it to a 25-foot-wide satellite dish in Los Angeles, which forwards it via fiber optic cable to the studios of TVB and North American TV. At the studios, the programming is edited, mixed with local programming and assembled into 24-hour blocks.

* TVB and North American TV beam the 24-hour blocks up to another satellite, which converts them into frequencies accessible by small backyard satellite dishes.

* That satellite sends the signal back to Earth, where subscribers with decoder boxes and small dishes can receive it and watch their favorite programs.

NORTH AMERICAN TV

Cost: About $500 decoder and satellite dish plus $15 monthly fees. Information: (213) 722-8889.

THE JADE CHANNEL/TVB

Cost: About $500 for decoder and satellite dish plus $18.88 in monthly fees. Information: (310) 802-8868.

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