Cartoon news is the future: Hong Kong media mogul

Hong Kong media tycoon Jimmy Lai has never been a man to mince words, especially when it comes to what he insists is the future of journalism - cartoon news.

Lai, 63, presides over an empire whose flagship Apple Daily is a must read in Hong Kong, a muck-racking tabloid with a peculiar mix of celebrity gossip, crime news and hard-driving political coverage punctuated by an anti-Beijing stance that has earned it a ban in mainland China.

But many loyal readers are particularly drawn to the graphic cartoons alongside the text stories, depicting a host of gruesome events such as triad hits, sexual assaults and horrific accidents.

Critics deride the pictorials as fanciful depictions of real-life news.

But the idea has sparked an Internet bonanza after Lai's Next Media produced a computer-generated animation in 2009 depicting Tiger Woods' enraged wife chasing after him with a golf club upon learning of his infidelities.

The segment, suggesting what might have happened before the golfing legend's infamous car crash, was an instant worldwide sensation and spawned a series of animated takes on high-profile news events.

Next Media now produces about 60 computer-animated dramatizations daily that draw about five million hits a day, all aimed at a generation under 40 hooked on video games and the Internet.

"They grew up watching TV and playing video games...so the future is obviously the visual world," Lai told AFP from his spartan office in an industrial park far from Hong Kong's glittering financial district.

"But the whole thing is a two-sided trial and error process - we have to get used to the right way to present it and people have to get used to accepting it."

Key to jumping into animated news has been churning out a clip in hours rather than weeks.

"Before, it took two or three weeks to finish 60 seconds," Lai said.

"Now it takes two hours. That's the innovation we have."

The clips run from the bizarre - a rap battle between US President Barack Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao over a real-life currency spat - to the questionable, including one that depicts former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown slugging his male aides and throwing a female secretary to the floor.

The spot followed reports about the politician's moody, bullying style, although he has denied physically abusing staff.

Lai is unapologetic about claims animated news takes serious liberties with the facts.

"The Gordon Brown (spot) was not very serious news," said Lai, dressed in jeans and sneakers with a picture of Jesus Christ on the wall behind him and a stuffed toy koala in another corner of his office.

"It's just for fun, but it may have some reality in it."

Added Lai: "I really don't care what people say to be honest... Just because nobody has ever tried something doesn't mean it's crazy."

Lai is famous for his unconventional style, rarely holding back on sensitive political matters, unlike some of his fellow Asian media moguls.

Despite making more than a few enemies through Apple's coverage and being an alleged target of a foiled assassination attempt in 2008, Lai has never had a bodyguard. And he continues to speak out.

In December, he wrote an op-ed piece in The Wall Street Journal that accused Taiwan of rolling over press freedoms after it turned down Next Media's application for a cable TV licence.

In 2009, Taiwan fined the company, which also publishes the Taiwan version of Apple Daily, for animations deemed obscene.

"But I don't worry about Taiwan's repressed freedom because it's a democracy," Lai said. "The people's voice is always heard loud and clear."

That is a message at the forefront of Apple's coverage, which pushes for political reform in Hong Kong, a semi-autonomous Chinese city that guarantees civil liberties not seen on the mainland, including freedom of speech.

Despite the buzz over animated news, Lai has no plan to desert newspapers, long the platform for his ardent political views. The printed word still has a future, he says, but not without big changes in the way it is presented.

"The future has to be in visual and we have to be in that business."

Arts and Entertainment
Nick Frost will star in the Doctor Who 2014 Christmas special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
TV
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Actor and director Zach Braff

TV
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne modelling

film
Arts and Entertainment
Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel are bringing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to the London Coliseum

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape

Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'

music
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

Review: Cilla, ITV TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars with Cillian Murphy in Peaky Blinders II

TV
Arts and Entertainment

art
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West is on his 'Yeezus' tour at the moment

Music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam