Who in the world watches the Oscars?

The Academy Awards program claims to have billions of viewers in hundreds of countries. The truth is somewhat different.


Rwandans, Bosnians and Indonesians are dying … to see what Gwyneth Paltrow will wear to the 72nd annual Academy Awards! But despair not, citizens of Kigali, Sarajevo and Jakarta. Regardless of the hardships you’ve had to endure over the past few years — the massacres, ethnic cleansings and political upheavals — you will get to see the Academy Awards in all their overlong glory — provided, of course, you have television sets. And electricity.

Yes, the world is watching. Sort of.

The Academy Awards and the Golden Globes both license the rights to their programs to other nations around the world. Both of these awards programs can get very self-congratulatory about the alleged billions of people tuning in. These numbers are hopelessly exaggerated, usually the product of adding together each broadcast-licensed nation’s entire population, rather than an estimated, Nielsen-like figure approximating actual viewers. Even if the Academy Awards were to be broadcast in China and India — which, as of press time, they were not to be this year — it certainly would not mean that every citizen from Bombay to Beijing would be able to tune in the program. Or even give a crap.

Still, these two major Hollywood shows have turned the planet into their own private, John Travolta-less Battlefield Earth, each apparently attempting to corner — and license — different parts of the world. Using distribution documents obtained exclusively by Salon from both awards shows’ personnel, I was able to determine exactly which nations had received licensing rights to which shows.

The Academy Awards are dominant in the European market. The show is licensed to be broadcast in 33 of the 36 European countries that are members of the United Nations (plus Switzerland and Vatican City, which are not U.N. member states), failing to crack only elusive Andorra, Albania and Liechtenstein.

The Golden Globes, on the other hand, which broadcast their 2000 awards in February, have had their problems with Europe, having licensed their show to only 18 of those same 38 markets. (The Globes, for some reason, were able to break through that tricky Liechtenstein demographic.)

But the Globes more than lived up to their name in Latin America and Asia, where the show kicked some major Oscar booty. The double G’s were broadcast in all 12 South American countries, all seven Central American countries and 32 of 36 Asian countries (plus non-U.N. member states Hong Kong, Taiwan and Macao). Oscar, on the other hand, got absolutely clobbered in those markets, as of press time securing licensing agreements from only seven South American states, two Central American countries and eight Asian markets (plus Hong Kong).

Anyone looking to use Africa as a rubber match would first have to sort out a few confusing factors. Of the 53 countries constituting the Organization of African Unity, the Academy Awards will be seen in at least 21, including Rwanda and Burkina Faso. But another entry on the Academy Awards roster lists “Africa (English Speaking)” as one entity, making it impossible to determine exactly how many African countries will hold their collective breath until they learn whether it is Jude Law or Haley Joel Osment who gets the nod for best supporting actor. The Golden Globes were broadcast in 34 of Africa’s 53 countries, straight up. And while the Globes were not seen in Rwanda, surely Libyan and Liberian viewers rejoiced in the streets as they watched Jim Carrey snag best actor in a musical or comedy.

One thing the staffs of both awards programs have in common is a shocking ignorance of world geography. The Oscar people apparently did not receive the memo that “Zaire” is now Congo, “Holland” is actually Netherlands and “Eire” is, in the English-speaking world, pronounced “Ireland.” The Globes may have an even worse geopolitical track record, referring as they do to licensees “British Guiana” (which has been known simply as Guyana since it achieved independence in 1966) and two states listed individually as “Tobago” and “Trinidad,” which have actually been the one state of Trinidad and Tobago since 1962.

The Globes might also want to invest in a spell-checker program, as they incorrectly listed licensees “Columbia” (Colombia with an “o”), “Comores” (the Comoro Islands), “Nambia” (Namibia), “Luxemburg” (Luxembourg) and “Surinam” (Suriname).

But at least the Globes don’t seem to have padded their stats, as Oscar has, with dubious “countries” such as “Alto Adige” (a primarily German-speaking Italian province), “Capodistria” (a primarily Italian-speaking city in western Slovenia, now known as Koper), the “Cook Islands” and “Niue” (both Oceanic territories of New Zealand), “Dom Tom” (a collective name for the odd French island territory, as near as I can determine; an ABC representative who requested anonymity said, “I can’t tell you exactly where it is”), “Fijian Islands” (listed separately from and in addition to “Fiji”), “Puerto Rico” (not even a state, much less a country) and “Vatican City” (the pope, presumably, wants his O-TV).

No one representing either the Academy Awards or ABC would respond on the record to these peculiarities. Even off the record, matters were difficult to confirm. Last year, the 71st annual Academy Awards show was broadcast to 143 countries. This year’s tally, as of press time, was 130. But no one would elaborate on which countries had fallen off Oscar’s atlas.

Lance Gould is a deputy features editor at the New York Daily News. He is also the author of "Shagadelicaaly Speaking: The Words and World of Austin Powers."

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Beautiful Darkness by Fabien Vehlmann & Kerascoët
    Kerascoët's lovely, delicate pen-and-watercolor art -- all intricate botanicals, big eyes and flowing hair -- gives this fairy story a deceptively pretty finish. You find out quickly, however, that these are the heartless and heedless fairies of folk legend, not the sentimental sprites beloved by the Victorians and Disney fans. A host of tiny hominid creatures must learn to survive in the forest after fleeing their former home -- a little girl who lies dead in the woods. The main character, Aurora, tries to organize the group into a community, but most of her cohort is too capricious, lazy and selfish to participate for long. There's no real moral to this story, which is refreshing in itself, beyond the perpetual lessons that life is hard and you have to be careful whom you trust. Never has ugly truth been given a prettier face.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Climate Changed: A Personal Journey Through the Science by Philippe Squarzoni
    Squarzoni is a French cartoonist who makes nonfiction graphic novels about contemporary issues and politics. While finishing up a book about France under Jacques Chirac, he realized that when it came to environmental policy, he didn't know what he was talking about. "Climate Changed" is the result of his efforts to understand what has been happening to the planet, a striking combination of memoir and data that ruminates on a notoriously elusive, difficult and even imponderable subject. Panels of talking heads dispensing information (or Squarzoni discussing the issues with his partner) are juxtaposed with detailed and meticulous yet lyrical scenes from the author's childhood, the countryside where he takes a holiday and a visit to New York. He uses his own unreachable past as a way to grasp the imminent transformation of the Earth. The result is both enlightening and unexpectedly moving.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Here by Richard McGuire
    A six-page version of this innovative work by a regular contributor to the New Yorker first appeared in RAW magazine 25 years ago. Each two-page spread depicts a single place, sometimes occupied by a corner of a room, over the course of 4 billion years. The oldest image is a blur of pink and purple gases; others depict hazmat-suited explorers from 300 years in the future. Inset images show the changing decor and inhabitants of the house throughout its existence: family photos, quarrels, kids in Halloween costumes, a woman reading a book, a cat walking across the floor. The cumulative effect is serene and ravishing, an intimation of the immensity of time and the wonder embodied in the humblest things.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Kill My Mother by Jules Feiffer
    The legendary Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist delivers his debut graphic novel at 85, a deliriously over-the-top blend of classic movie noir and melodrama that roams from chiaroscuro Bay City to Hollywood to a USO gig in the Pacific theater of World War II. There's a burnt-out drunk of a private eye, but the story is soon commandeered by a multigenerational collection of ferocious women, including a mysterious chanteuse who never speaks, a radio comedy writer who makes a childhood friend the butt of a hit series and a ruthless dame intent on making her whiny coward of a husband into a star. There are disguises, musical numbers and plenty of gunfights, but the drawing is the main attraction. Nobody convey's bodies in motion more thrillingly than Feiffer, whether they're dancing, running or duking it out. The kid has promise.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    The Motherless Oven by Rob Davis
    This is a weird one, but in the nervy surreal way that word-playful novels like "A Clockwork Orange" or "Ulysses" are weird. The main character, a teenage schoolboy named Scarper Lee, lives in a world where it rains knives and people make their own parents, contraptions that can be anything from a tiny figurine stashable in a pocket to biomorphic boiler-like entities that seem to have escaped from Dr. Seuss' nightmares. Their homes are crammed with gadgets they call gods and instead of TV they watch a hulu-hoop-size wheel of repeating images that changes with the day of the week. They also know their own "death day," and Scarper's is coming up fast. Maybe that's why he runs off with the new girl at school, a real troublemaker, and the obscurely dysfunctional Castro, whose mother is a cageful of talking parakeets. A solid towline of teenage angst holds this manically inventive vision together, and proves that some graphic novels can rival the text-only kind at their own game.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    NOBROW 9: It's Oh So Quiet
    For each issue, the anthology magazine put out by this adventurous U.K.-based publisher of independent graphic design, illustration and comics gives 45 artists a four-color palette and a theme. In the ninth issue, the theme is silence, and the results are magnificent and full of surprises. The comics, each told in images only, range from atmospheric to trippy to jokey to melancholy to epic to creepy. But the two-page illustrations are even more powerful, even if it's not always easy to see how they pertain to the overall concept of silence. Well, except perhaps for the fact that so many of them left me utterly dumbstruck with visual delight.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Over Easy by Mimi Pond
    When Pond was a broke art student in the 1970s, she took a job at a neighborhood breakfast spot in Oakland, a place with good food, splendid coffee and an endlessly entertaining crew of short-order cooks, waitresses, dishwashers and regular customers. This graphic memoir, influenced by the work of Pond's friend, Alison Bechdel, captures the funky ethos of the time, when hippies, punks and disco aficionados mingled in a Bay Area at the height of its eccentricity. The staff of the Imperial Cafe were forever swapping wisecracks and hopping in and out of each other's beds, which makes them more or less like every restaurant team in history. There's an intoxicating esprit de corps to a well-run everyday joint like the Imperial Cafe, and never has the delight in being part of it been more winningly portrayed.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew
    You don't have to be a superhero fan to be utterly charmed by Yang and Liew's revival of a little-known character created in the 1940s by the cartoonist Chu Hing. This version of the Green Turtle, however, is rich in characterization, comedy and luscious period detail from the Chinatown of "San Incendio" (a ringer for San Francisco). Hank, son of a mild-mannered grocer, would like to follow in his father's footsteps, but his restless mother (the book's best character and drawn with masterful nuance by Liew) has other ideas after her thrilling encounter with a superhero. Yang's story effortlessly folds pathos into humor without stooping to either slapstick or cheap "darkness." This is that rare tribute that far surpasses the thing it celebrates.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Shoplifter by Michael Cho
    Corinna Park, former English major, works, unhappily, in a Toronto advertising agency. When the dissatisfaction of the past five years begins to oppress her, she lets off steam by pilfering magazines from a local convenience store. Cho's moody character study is as much about city life as it is about Corinna. He depicts her falling asleep in front of the TV in her condo, brooding on the subway, roaming the crowded streets after a budding romance goes awry. Like a great short story, this is a simple tale of a young woman figuring out how to get her life back, but if feels as if it contains so much of contemporary existence -- its comforts, its loneliness, its self-deceptions -- suspended in wintery amber.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Through the Woods by Emily Carroll
    This collection of archetypal horror, fairy and ghost stories, all about young girls, comes lushly decked in Carroll's inky black, snowy white and blood-scarlet art. A young bride hears her predecessor's bones singing from under the floorboards, two friends make the mistake of pretending to summon the spirits of the dead, a family of orphaned siblings disappears one by one into the winter nights. Carroll's color-saturated images can be jagged, ornate and gruesome, but she also knows how to chill with absence, shadows and a single staring eye. Literary readers who cherish the work of Kelly Link or the late Angela Carter's collection, "The Bloody Chamber," will adore the violent beauty on these pages.

  • Recent Slide Shows



Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>