GLOBAL VOICES SERIES – Jason Lau of EARS Online

This is part of an on-going series of interviews by Yinsey Wang with East Asian voices around the globe. The series aims to introduce perspectives from different walks of life.

“If there is no risk, there’s no opportunity”; Chinese-Canadian Jason Lau certainly stands by his personal slogan. In fact, he had the courage to pack up all his bags and hurry over to Hong Kong to start a new beginning just this year. However, after trying a stint at an established international law firm in Hong Kong, Lau decided to return to Canada and continue his calling as a passionate creative and innovative entrepreneur.

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Accomplished in his profession in accountancy and his dreams to introduce audiences to the exciting world of radio dramas, Lau has the best of both worlds. Having worked for over a decade on EARS Online, a multimedia platform for East Asian audiences, Lau continually challenges himself in both familiar and unfamiliar mediums. EARS Online has, amongst other things, covered the visit of Jackie Chan at the Yeehong Centre in Toronto, interviewed with several TVB and established Hong Kong actors and models, and shared international news affecting the global East Asian community.

Kevin interviews Chrissy Chau
Jason interviews Chrissie Chau

Why radio and why radio dramas?

I suppose that I have always been in love with radio. In the 90’s, I remember there was something known as the “hotlines”, which was similar to the internet. Basically a specific telephone hotline would be used to project radio programmes. I would listen to them and I was so taken by radio drama love stories. In particular, I found the use of sound effects interesting, especially in regards to how far your imagination could take you just by listening.

Radio dramas were really popular in Hong Kong and Taiwan. For instance, people travelling on the Hong Kong MTR would want to listen to something like this rather than staring at a screen. Audiences treat themselves to sounds and exciting tales rather than just only music.

How did you enter into the industry?

Well, initially, my parents discouraged me from entering into the industry of media. I came to the attention in the industry when I was vocal about Chinese-language school papers about their close-minded approach to ideas, which culminated in an article that I wrote. With a sense of purpose, I launched “The Comline Online Radio” in 1998. I also joined the Asian Broadcasting Network (ABN) at the University of Toronto in 1999.  I started to recruit my own crew as early as 2000.

We actually began our own DJ radio classes, charging very low fees and inviting students to participate. At one point we even managed to attract two professional hosts from Fairchild, a prominent media company, to participate. They supported us in our first year of radio classes but unfortunately, given the conflict of interest, these two hosts were barred from providing us with support thereafter. Hence, I became a main instructor and hosted several successful classes, which pushed me to learn and develop my skills.

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Jason with Kevin Cheng

Tell us more about EARS Online. How did you get started with it?

Well, we had trouble in 2003 to continue with our radio programming due to the SARS outbreak. It was such a terrible year and there was so much risk associated with continuing with EARS/ComLine Online Radio. However, I picked it up the following year and reinvented what I was doing; I am always ensuring that I try different things. Would I quit? My passion wouldn’t let me. Instead, I decided to register EARS Online as a private company in 2004. I felt that this would give me more legitimacy in the industry.

We encountered exciting successes and we were pushed to find new ways of developing our company. Highlights included when I interviewed Chrissie Chau, a hugely-popular celebrity, and Kevin Cheng, who won the 2011 TVB Anniversary Award for Best Actor. For example, we acted as a media sponsor to Beauties of Asia in 2009 and expanded into video programming coverage. We actually received thousands of viewers on Youtube and had an excellent response. I found the transition fascinating; I could transfer my skills learnt from radio to video!

What’s next for EARS?

In the past six months we have been expanding dramatically. It’s an exciting time for us; we have been exploring multi-media platforms and incorporating fashion and modelling in our network. We also have been targeting future sponsors that wish to commission videography for their products or services, covering vehicles and automobile launches as well as companies providing housing. This is a great time for us because of the decline of television and the rise of internet programming. Such is natural given people are spending a considerable amount of their free time online, for example on social networks such as Facebook or Weibo.

Tell us about the projects you’ve been involved in.

Our most successful project would be Love 1/3, which was a mixture of love and comedy. It was about a straight guy, a bisexual girl and a lesbian. It was about a fresh graduate who lives in a new apartment and falls in love with a new girl. Then, he finds out that she was dating another lady. The result was that it received great feedback; it was entertaining and really fresh as it explored gender and sexuality themes.

However, what has been unforgettable and truly exciting is how we have developed our network with celebrities and expanded our programming. We also tried our hands at a historical comedy radio drama which was extremely fun, and even dabbled in science fiction themes.

What’s next for you?

As I said before, I’m always doing something new. I’ve managed to pursue my accounting goal in the last ten years, and now I see real potential in the media business. I hope that the economic situation will get better and support my ambitions.

What has inspired you recently?

Nicholas Tse’s speech at a university in Hong Kong really inspired me. Although Tse is a celebrity and acting full-time, he also started his own company at only 23 years of age. His success has been resultant on a large demand in China and businesses there that thrive on internet advertising. His post-production company, which is successful in Hong Kong and Shanghai, has been able to carve itself a viable market through this.

Any last words?

Don’t be afraid to try your hand at something you love. If you never try, you never know.
However keep in mind that it is important to have sufficient support for what you’re doing. Think about the pros and cons about pursuing a dream. It is important to be realistic too: for example, if you are successful in what you love, would it affect your living? Lots of young people are lucky enough because they have enough support from their parents and don’t need to worry about an adequate level of living. So, think deeply: if it’s something you want really badly, then you’ll know whether or not it’s worth it.

If you think you have a story to tell, please email : [email protected]

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