Rumours swirl as top TV series blacked out

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 26 November, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 26 November, 2009, 12:00am

Authorities in Beijing have blacked out a daring TV series highlighting rising property prices on the mainland because of the sensitive issue and scripts, according to media reports.

Many viewers complained that Beijing Television had stopped broadcasting Snail House (whose name in English is Dwelling Narrowness) from Sunday for no good reason, The Southern Metropolis News reported yesterday.

The report stated that the TV station said a technical problem had damaged the recording of the episode. But the newspaper also quoted an unnamed station insider as saying the State Administration of Radio Film and Television had ordered the show to be stopped.

The insider said two reasons led to the shutdown - the descriptive style of the scripts and the sensitive topic of rocketing property prices.

No official from the administrative body was available for comment yesterday.

Snail House started showing at different times around the country so it is at different stages depending on the city.

An employee at Shenzhen TV yesterday said they had heard that the state administration might stop the TV series there as well.

'The audience loves the series,' he said. 'We will keep broadcasting it unless the supervisors inform us of the blackout.'

Adapted from best-selling writer Liu Liu's popular novel of the same name, the TV series, which began in some mainland markets in July, has achieved extremely high viewing figures. It depicts a couple's sad struggle to try to buy an apartment large enough that their son can return to live with them. The series has raised nationwide discussion, with a large number of viewers saying the story mirrors their own lives.

It follows two sisters who have borrowed heavily to buy user rights to property, as technically all mainland property is owned by the state.

In a desperate attempt to help her elder sister buy a flat, the younger one begins an affair with a wealthy, corrupt official, who gives her the money.

The characters live in Jiangzhou, a fictional metropolis. The character who may have helped the series attract such a high audience share is Song Siming, the powerful secretary to Jiangzhou's mayor.

He spends freely and lends the sisters money but later falls from grace in a scandal over the diversion of hundreds of millions of yuan from Jiangzhou's pension fund to finance property projects.

Song's downfall bears a resemblance to that of Qin Yu, the former head of Shanghai's Baoshan district, who was involved in a scandal over the misuse of pension funds in 2006. The same year, Chen Liangyu , the former Communist Party boss of Shanghai, was charged with accepting 2.39 million yuan in bribes and sentenced to 18 years in jail. Qin, Chen's secretary, was sentenced to life imprisonment after accepting 6.8 million yuan in bribes.