This superb use of computer-generated imagery by Next Media Animation (NMA) has attracted plenty of attention over the past week, offering a liberal interpretation of some of the juicier claims about Gordon Brown. [youtube=] It is not the first time that NMA, a unit of the same group that publishes irreverent Hong Kong newspaper Apple Daily, has so deftly merged the sublime with the ridiculous. Similar video coverage of the Tiger Woods affair was, shall we say, almost as memorable. This time, though, the video appears to have sparked a diplomatic incident. After The Guardian published the video on its website, the Taipei Representative's Office (TRO)  in London apparently contacted the newspaper to request a retraction to its claim that the video originated in Taiwan. In this the TRO  was aided by some confusion. NMA voices its videos in Mandarin, Cantonese and English. The one above is Cantonese and also uses Apple Daily's Hong Kong web address. However, NMA is clearly based in Taiwan and has confirmed the video was made there. Why, I wonder, is the TRO to be so keen to distance itself  from a video produced by one of its biggest media houses? I contacted a senior executive at Next Media, a company I regularly covered during my time in Hong Kong. He confessed he had "no idea" why the Taiwanese Government would wade in, but noted that it is often "insecure" about such things. He also said:
"Every other news channel in Taiwan has now started animation sequences in their newscasts. Taiwan's market is leading, the government will catch-up."
Which offers a few more clues. Next Media, led by its irrepressible leader Jimmy Lai, is evidently aware that the Taiwanese authorities are less than keen on its animated news segments, as this CNN story makes clear. The row culminated in the Government rejecting Lai's bid for a licence to launch a cable TV channel called Next TV. Seen in that context, Government efforts to distance itself from the video are unsurprising. What next? Lai will no doubt re-apply for a licence, and he claims he is in talks to export the CGI model to other markets worldwide. If nothing else, Lai's ability to ruffle feathers - so effectively demonstrated in Hong Kong - remains in fine fettle. And it gives me a welcome opportunity to revisit one my favourite articles: this profile I wrote of Lai after interviewing him in 2007. Funnily enough, at one point Lai talks about how online news has to become much more "image- and action-oriented." I'll admit, I had no idea this is what he meant.