Chinese TV to Show More News, Less Reality

China’s State Administration of Radio, Film and Television has issued new regulations to promote informative and ideological programmes over entertainment and reality TV. From the (Hong Kong-based) South China Morning Post’s report on “the mainland’s fun police” and its new rules:

The restricted programmes include talent, dating and game shows, as well as evening performance galas, talk shows and reality shows.

No more than nine such shows will be allowed to be aired on the 34 cable channels between 7.30pm and 10pm each day. Each television network will be limited to two such shows each week and to no more than 90 minutes of such shows between 7.30 and 10 on any given night ….

Each cable television channel must air at least two hours of news-related programming from 6pm to midnight every day, plus two independently-produced news programmes, each at least 30 minutes long, from 6pm to 11.30pm each day. Every channel should broadcast a programme on ideology and morality to promote traditional Chinese culture and “socialist core values”.

The measures are believed to be an attempt to remagnetise the nation’s drifting moral compass, but may simply drive bored younger viewers to seek out foreign programming online. From The Guardian:

Mark Natkin, managing director of Beijing-based Marbridge Consulting, said he had heard of similar edicts being sent to film companies.”People were told by SARFT that they needed to do less entertainment content and improve the balance, with more wholesome content or content conveying messages endorsed by government organs,” said Natkin, who focuses on media and telecoms ….

“[Official concerns] are that left entirely to the market, there are no limits to the levels that programme producers will sink to as they try to attract new audiences and good ratings ….”

Bill Bishop, an independent internet analyst based in Beijing, said video-sharing sites hosting foreign reality shows may receive a boost in traffic, and suggested that authorities might seek to curb this. “If they are neutering traditional television, you have to wonder why they are not going to do something about online [access] – at the moment there’s all the stuff that doesn’t get broadcast,” he said.

China Real Time Report included some prominent netizens’ reactions to SARFT’s new restrictions:

Online reaction on China’s Internet was largely critical, both of the new rules and of an editorial in the People’s Daily official Communist newspaper that supported such a move. “Cultural reform has mutated into the Cultural Revolution,” said Wu Jiaxiang, political commentator and former visiting scholar at Harvard University, on his verified Sina Weibo microblogging account.

“Don’t take this lightly. The Cultural Revolution started with the criticism of ‘Hai Rui Dismissed from Office,’” Zhao Chu, a military expert and newspaper columnist, wrote on his verified Weibo account, referring to a 1959 Peking Opera play about an upright Ming Dynasty official that was criticized by the Gang of Four in 1965 as a veiled lionization of one of Mao Zedong’s political rivals. “If we don’t resist this so-called cultural revolution and cultural construction, it could quickly turn into the most violent and cultureless of movements. Cultural and intellectual tyranny is the foundation of despotic violence.”

See more on SARFT’s rulings and the government’s recent emphasis on cultural development, on CDT.