TV controls likely to be turn-off

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 04 August, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 15 August, 2012, 10:58pm


Mainland television viewers will be relying more on the internet for their programmes after the top broadcast regulator ordered a series of new content rules, including a ban on remakes of foreign shows.

The State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (Sarft) has told broadcasters to cut back on conflicts and jokes in historical serials and more clearly distinguish between heroes and villains in dramas about the Communist revolution, The Beijing News reported.

The agency also banned popular online games from being turned into television series.

The orders were seen as the latest attempt to rein in popular culture ahead of this autumn's national congress, when the party plans a once-in-a-decade change of power.

Content restrictions on television serials have been repeatedly tightened in recent years.

Earlier this year, Sarft banned imported television series from airing during prime time and relegated foreign-made television serials to runs of no longer than 50 episodes.

The latest Sarft directives were seen as reminiscent of a similar tightening last year, after a spree of high rating crime, spy and time-travel dramas prompted the agency to implement a three-month ban on such programming ahead of the party's anniversary in July.

The Legend of Zhen Huan, a drama centred on the schemes between the concubines of Qing dynasty Emperor Yongzheng, led in the ratings when it aired on satellite television in May and June. Another hit drama, Xuan-Yuan Sword, a television serial based on a popular online game, is now being aired by Hunan Satellite TV, a channel famous among young viewers for its entertainment shows.

The new directive was expected to drive more mainland viewers to get their entertainment from the internet, especially programmes from abroad.

'Now I have no regret about turning to American television soaps on the internet,' one Sina Weibo user wrote. Another asked: 'Are we going back to the Cultural Revolution's revolutionary opera again?'

Sarft first announced its directives during a national satellite television conference in Harbin late last month, attended by executives from 35 satellite television channels, according to industry insiders.

The conference focused on the latest trends in the television dramas, including increased regulation of their content and plans to produce more propaganda works in the run-up to the party congress, Heilongjiang Television reported at the time.

In 2004, police dramas featuring crimes were ordered off during the prime-time hours of 7.30pm to 10pm. In 2006, the authority pulled foreign-made animation from prime time.

Sarft also issued an order to curb 'excessive entertainment' during prime time last year and required broadcasters to reduce the number of entertainment shows aired each week to 38 from the previous 126.

China is the world's biggest producer of television serials, and churned out 469 television serials with nearly 15,000 episodes last year.