China limits television programs that are "overly entertaining," e.g. "record the dark and gloomy side of society."

Posted: 28 Oct 2011   Print   Send a link
AP, 26 Oct 2011, Christopher Bodeen: "China plans to limit reality TV shows and other light entertainment fare shown on satellite television stations as part of a drive to wrest back Communist Party control over cultural industries that are fueling more independent viewpoints. The order from the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television, known as SARFT, refers to shows that are vulgar or 'overly entertaining.' It singles out programs dealing with marital troubles and matchmaking, talent shows, game shows, variety shows, talk shows and reality programming. Such shows must be largely phased out by the beginning of next year by the country's 34 satellite TV stations, to be replaced with news and cultural programming. The order also bans viewership surveys and the use of ratings as the sole criteria for whether to broadcast a particular show. The changes aim to 'meet the public's demand for varied, multilevel, and high quality viewing,' said the order, published Wednesday." -- They are called "satellite" television stations because they are provincial stations that deliver their content to other parts of China via satellite. Most Chinese, however, don't watch these channels via their own satellite dishes, but through cable TV systems, or via cable within an apartment building delivered from a dish on the roof of the building.

Reuters, 25 Oct 2011: "China's State Administration of Radio, Film and Television starting next year will restrict shows that 'record the dark and gloomy side of society', the Southern Metropolis Daily said. 'For every satellite TV station, no more than two entertainment programmes can be aired during prime time from 7:30 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. every night,' the paper said, citing a directive from the national broadcasting watchdog. Instead, the newspaper said, the extra time slots would be filled with programmes that 'promote harmony, health and mainstream culture'."

Worldcrunch, 28 Oct 2011, excerpted and translated from the Economic Observer: "The regulations, however, are only applied to some 30 provincial satellite TVs. This excludes the state-owned CCTV. Some are therefore asking whether the origin behind this new directive is to counteract the declining popularity of CCTV’s news programs and recreational shows. Currently, at 7:00 p.m. every night, Chinese viewers who want a bit of information have no choice but to watch the so-called 'News Network' of the Chinese Communist Party, and the government’s propaganda machine. This is not only broadcast by CCTV itself, but also on a provincial-level by local stations that are obliged to air it."

Xinhua, 27 Oct 2011: "Under the new policy, channels will be required to broadcast at least two hours of news programs between 6 am and midnight. Between 6 pm and 11:30 pm, they must each broadcast at least two 30-minute news programs. ... The statement also noted that the SARFT welcomes the introduction of high-quality foreign TV programs if suitable for Chinese audiences and imported legally. If wanting to buy an overseas program, TV channels should apply to the provincial TV watchdog for approval and then report it to the SARFT two months before it intends to broadcast the show."

The National (Abu Dhabi), 27 Oct 2011, Daniel Bardsley: "There were indications last month the authorities were again losing patience with broadcasters when it was announced Supergirl, an American Idol-style talent show, would not be allowed to continue next year, supposedly because one episode of the 2011 series exceeded limits on the length of programmes." See previous post about same subject.

Wall Street Journal, 26 Oct 2011, Laurie Burkitt and Josh Chin: "China's new limits on broadcast media may force companies to pay higher prices for advertising time on the popular television shows that remain, media experts say, as the central government tightens its control of the nation's cultural landscape."

Dallas Blog, 26 Oct 2011, Tom McGregor: "Beijing claims that this restriction was ordered, based on allegations that many popular Chinese TV shows have been deemed 'too vulgar' according to China’s Communist Party officials. However, the Chinese state-run media often avoid news that involve thought-provoking topics and encourage 'soft news' which they perceive as real news. -- Tom McGregor is an American who broadcasts for the English Service of China Radio International.

China Daily, 28 Oct 2011, Craig McIntosh: "Having had Chinese television as my only source of entertainment for several months when I first arrived, I can honest say I think we should be encouraging producers to inject more entertainment, rather than take it out. When I surf through the channels all I see are costume dramas and old movies. However, rather than give a pat on the back to those who think outside of the box, channels are being told to instead commission shows that promote traditional virtues and socialist core values."

Times Daily (Florence, AL), 27 Oct 2011, Dale McFeatters: "In a nation that is a stickler for social control, you would think China’s communist rulers would be happy with television programming that kept most of its billion people inside, sitting slack-jawed and catatonic in front of their televisions, their brains atrophied by the kind of programming that has the same effect here. But the leadership feels shows that are 'overly entertaining' are leading the people away from 'core socialist values.' And what kind of shows would these be? The inquiring minds of American network programmers want to know; we can’t always be stealing our shows from the Brits."

New York Times, 27 Oct 2011, Sharon Lafraniere, Michael Wines and Edward Wong, via New Delhi TV: "The restrictions arrived as party leaders signalled new curbs on China's short-message, Twitter-like microblogs, an Internet sensation that has mushroomed in less than two years into a major - and difficult to control - source of whistle-blowing. Microbloggers, some of whom have attracted millions of followers, have been exposing scandals and official malfeasance, including an attempted cover-up of a recent high-speed rail accident, with astonishing speed and popularity. On Wednesday, the Communist Party's Central Committee called in a report on its annual meeting for an 'Internet management system' that would strictly regulate social network and instant-message systems, and punish those who spread 'harmful information.'"

Heritage Foundation, 18 Oct 2011, Helle Dale: "There is absolutely no doubt that the Internet presents a double-edged sword and a huge challenge to China’s censors, as it does to those of Iran and other closed societies. Controlling information has become that much harder in the age of the Internet. Yet, there is equally no doubt that Chinese officials will continue to do their level best to stay on top. U.S. policymakers must take into account documentation such as the CECC’s reports when reviewing U.S. communications strategy, an issue that came before the Broadcasting Board of Governors on Thursday. While the success of China’s microbloggers is to be congratulated, too narrow a focus on the Internet will prevent the U.S. government from getting reliable information through to the Chinese people. For optimal results, the U.S. needs all the communications tools at its disposal—including satellite television and short-wave radio as well as the Internet."

Advanced Television, 27 Oct 2011, Chris Forrester: "A few weeks ago it was widely reported that China had ‘banned’ entertainment-type programming especially that emanating from Taiwan and which frequently employed ‘Western’ presentation styles and fashions. ... Now a Chinese official at the State Council Taiwan Affairs Office [TAO], has stated that no such ‘ban’ is in place. Yang Yi, from the State Council, made the remarks when asked to comment on an alleged entertainment ban that would make it more difficult for Taiwan entertainers to perform in mainland-based entertainment shows."