Morality television one big turn-off

PUBLISHED : Friday, 04 November, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 04 November, 2011, 12:00am


Television game shows can be mindless and reality TV banal in the extreme. This is a point of view, though, not a fact. There are those who find such programmes engaging, who argue that they tell stories, reflect the times we live in, are even high art. It is a point that mainland authorities are missing with their latest rules limiting the amount of entertainment that can be aired each day.

Boring times await those who like their TV to be bright, bouncy and perhaps even fun to watch. As of next year on the 34 cable television channels, out will go hours of programmes like talent and dating shows and performance galas, and in their place will be ideology and moral education broadcasts. The regulations dictate that the stations broadcast daily at least one programme to promote traditional Chinese culture and 'socialist core values'. It is a hardening of policies and a response to the Communist Party Central Committee's recent meeting at which it asserted its role as the arbiter of social morality.

Morality was certainly not what viewers were tuning in for with Happy Girls, the wildly-popular female singing contest on satellite TV that was pulled off the air earlier this year with the excuse that it ran for too many hours. The bringing together of tens of millions of viewers, the choosing of a winner by voting and the sheer enjoyment would seem to have been more plausible reasons for the show being axed. It was by no means the first casualty of the drive for ideological soundness and within months it looks likely to be joined by many more. Mainland TV, already quite dull for many, is in danger of becoming, for those people, excruciatingly tedious.

There is always room for documentaries and programmes that focus on news, education, children and the economy. Shows with a moral or ideological message also have a place. But viewers have different tastes and what is entertaining to some may be high-brow, forgettable or even yawn-inducing to others. Variety is the spice of life and without it on TV screens, there will be a rush for the 'off' button.