Chinese entertainment shows airing in prime time on satellite TV have been dramatically slashed, with the government carrying out a campaign to curb what it deems lowbrow content.
Entertainment programming broadcast by satellite carriers has been cut to 38 shows from from 126, the Chinese state news agency Xinhua reported this week.
For the past decade, Chinese officials have urged media and entertainment companies to be more competitive, but also chastised some subsequent attempts when they have diverged from the ruling Communist Party line. In the case of television production, the government is battling the growth of shows inspired by Western successes — content the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television has at times blasted as "low taste" and "vulgar."
For instance, Hunan Satellite Television's popular talent competition Super Girl — which debuted in 2005 and was inspired by the Pop Idol franchise — was a smash hit. However, in September government censors ordered the singing contest off the air, saying the show was "too long."
The slick, sensationalist and sometimes outrageous dating/match-making show If You Are The One — a current blockbuster on Chinese television — broke audience records upon its debut in 2010. More than 50 million people tuned in regularly to watch a bevy of attractive young women sassily grill eligible bachelors and potential dates onstage.
However, the successful Jiangsu Satellite TV show — which inspired copycats — has been criticized for promoting a negative, materialistic portrait of young people in modern China.
Censors ordered producers to overhaul the program to better fulfill SARFT's fall 2011 directive to create entertainment content that promotes "traditional virtues and socialist core value."
Recent changes have included older contestants, the addition of a stern female professor host, cutting out verbal exchanges that could be viewed negatively and multiple reviews before broadcast.
"Satellite channels have started to broadcast programs that promote traditional virtues and socialist core values," Xinhua reported on Tuesday, citing SARFT.
Ordered to cut programming
In October, SARFT issued an order to satellite broadcasters demanding they reduce the number of entertainment programming that highlights "vulgar tendencies," including reality TV, variety shows, dating competitions, game shows, talks shows and talent contests.
According to the ruling from the regulator, the approximately three dozen Chinese satellite broadcasters must limit their entertainment programs to two per week, with a maximum of 90 minutes of such content permitted to air during the evening prime time each day.
The order also introduced minimum requirements for news programming, including at least two half-hours of news content each night during prime time.
China is considered to have the world's largest television audience, with about 95 per cent of China's immense population of more than 1.3 billion with access to television, according to estimates.