Academic journal article Asian American Policy Review

How MTV and Other Corporations Are Challenging Asian America: An Examination of the Business Perspective on Asian American Identity

Academic journal article Asian American Policy Review

How MTV and Other Corporations Are Challenging Asian America: An Examination of the Business Perspective on Asian American Identity

Article excerpt

When MTV announced that it was launching a new division called MTV World in 2004, it became the first major media company to target the Asian American community. MTV World would offer three new networks specifically for Asian American audiences in the United States, including MTV Desi for South Asian Americans, MTV Chi for Chinese Americans, and MTV K for Korean Americans. Nusrat Durrani, general manager of MTV World, explained that the decision to develop these networks was based on MTV's recognition of an underserved, yet rapidly growing Asian American market. "We looked at the U.S. Census, how Asian Americans are the third largest group in the country, the fastest growing, with very vibrant cultures and [a] lot of diversity" (Daswani 2005). The channels would not be mere reproductions of MTV's international networks but would offer "customized programming" reflecting the "bicultural identities" of the audiences here in the United States (Yang 2005). MTV Desi hit the airwaves first in July 2005, MTV Chi launched in December 2005, and MTV K is scheduled to roll out later this year.

MTV's venture in the Asian American market can be regarded as a compelling business strategy for an organization facing the challenges of a maturing brand; the company must continue to find new ways to connect with its audiences and expand into new markets. However, the creation of MTV World should be regarded as much more than simply a business strategy. It is, in fact, also a meaningful policy statement on Asian Americans and Asian American identity. It is MTV's policy statement--one that I would argue is shared increasingly by more corporations today.

The Asian American community needs to understand the policies and perspectives of corporate America. Policy discussions involving Asian American race and identity have been dominated historically by the academic, public, and nonprofit spheres. The corporate perspective is rarely considered, which is remarkable when we reflect on the many recent controversial incidents involving companies that have sparked public debate about racial politics and policy. Examples include the "Tsunami" song on Hot 97, a New York City station owned by Emmis Communications; the "Wong Brothers" T-shirts manufactured by Abercrombie & Fitch; and the "Gay or Asian?" advertisement printed in Details, owned by Fairchild Publications. Given the effect companies' attitudes and actions can have on all Asian Americans, it is not sufficient merely to be reactive to certain negative corporate practices by voicing complaints on occasion. Instead, we must consider companies as key stakeholders in the public discourse on the issue of Asian American identity and be proactive in seeking out their perspectives on a regular basis.

MTV Approach

Based on recent announcements and business decisions, I would suggest that MTV subscribes to two simple yet significant viewpoints regarding Asian Americans. First, MTV believes in the importance and relevance of the Asian American community today, enough to invest substantially in this market. Other lesser-known platforms ostensibly also share this view, as they have created their own Asian American networks, such as AZN and ImaginAsian (note that MTV was the first major media company to enter this space but not actually the first player). Second, and perhaps more importantly, MTV believes in the necessity of segmenting within the Asian American market to launch three distinct networks. According to Durrani, MTV aims to "superserve" the Asian American ethnic markets and "make the environment as customized and as comfortable as possible for viewers, rather than taking a one-size-fits-all approach" (Yang 2005).

MTV's approach to the Asian American market reflects a broader shift in the corporate perspective toward Asian Americans. Many companies are beginning to recognize some important underlying trends that will shape how they think about Asian Americans going forward. …

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