China to curb ‘overly entertaining’ reality TV

2011-10-26 11:27

Beijing – China plans to limit reality TV shows and other lowbrow fare shown on satellite television stations as part of a drive to wrest back Communist Party control over cultural industries that are fuelling more independent viewpoints.

The order from the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television refers to shows that are vulgar or “overly entertaining”.

It singles out programmes 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.

Published in state media today, the order follows a Communist Party meeting last week that asserted the need for strengthening social morality and boosting China’s cultural influence abroad – a recognition by the party that it is losing its power to dictate public opinion.

Social media, especially hugely popular microblogs that encourage individuals to generate content, are also being targeted by government censors.

The crackdown coincides with a bout of national hand-wringing over a lack of public ethics, highlighted by the death last week of a toddler who was struck by a vehicle and left for dead by passers by.

Officials believe the promotion of “core socialist values” – a phrase meant to counter calls by liberal Chinese for “universal values” – will bolster social cohesion in the face of rising materialism.

The changes mandated by SARFT aim to “meet the public’s demand for varied, multilevel, and high quality viewing,” the order stated.
“Satellite channels are mainly for the broadcast of news propaganda and should expand the proportion of news, economic, cultural, science and education, children’s, and documentary programming,” the order said.

Satellite channels as a whole can show no more than nine of the restricted programmes each night between the prime time hours of 7.30pm and 10pm, with individual channels limited to two programmes each not exceeding 90 minutes in total.

They must also show at least two hours of news programmes between 6am and 11.30pm, with at least two news programmes running no less than 30 minutes each to be shown in prime time.

While satellite television has grown massively as an alternative to the staid government-run terrestrial channels, younger Chinese have increasingly turned to the internet for viewing domestic and foreign produced movies and television programmes.

Government efforts to police the web have focused mainly on blocking pornography, gambling sites, and those featuring politically sensitive content, while moves to restrict entertainment have been largely ineffective.

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