On the 9th March during a visit to Seoul, the Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak announced the establishment of an animation centre in the Malaysian Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC) town of Cyberjaya.

The press release on the MSC website indicates the Malaysian Government’s belief that the content industry can be a significant source of growth, innovation, and augment economies to produce higher value-added products and services to compete internationally.

The content industry has a huge global market and the setting up of the centre will give our people, who have a high level of creativity, numerous opportunities to venture into the existing market.

And in a move to an intellectual property-driven economy, animation appears to be the ‘industry of choice’ for various governments to make a foray into supporting content industries. The dominance of Japanese animation in world markets and the emergence of Korea as a competitive ‘animation-nation’ has undoubtedly prompted various policymakers in Asia to adopt a “me-too” (?) approach. This combined with the steady rise in international animation trade, and the ‘ease of entry’ into animation (both from technical and export market adaptability perspectives) has resulted in a number of countries looking to animation as a key to entry into international media content markets.

Another notable item in the press release was the announcement of collaborative agreements and MoUs between Malaysian and Korean animators, and the Malaysian Multimedia Development Corporation (MDeC) and the Korea Culture and Content Agency (KOCCA)
With more and more nations looking to morph their inward-looking local content industries into ‘vibrant’ ‘competitive’ industries situated in ‘global media cities’, one has to wonder about the potential for “success” in an environment where multinationals, investors, and creative talent have an ever expanding suite of options to choose from.

Is there a hint of location tournaments in the air? The issue raises a series of questions.

  • What policy instruments are governments using to attract industry players?
  • How much effort is being placed on the development of human capital and building of capacity locally?
  • To what extent are generic policies that encourage free movement of capital, freedom of expression, education, and a high standard of living being used compared to specific industry policies that provide incentives, tax concessions, and subsidies for local firms or multinational entrants?

The answers to these questions are a start to deciphering some of the government rhetoric and determining which policy settings are suited not just for foreign investors but for the growth of domestic industries and local economic development.