China to tighten controls on news commentary TV show hosts and guests

Use of celebrities and artists as guest hosts will also be prohibited in move analysts say is particularly aimed at news commentary programmes

Many social media users complained yesterday that their favourite dating and singing competitions would suffer, though experts said the true targets of the move were news commentary and talk shows.

The State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television issued a circular on Monday stating that TV shows should not recruit guests as supporting hosts.

The circular added that the administration would “strengthen the education and management of hosts and guests”.

“News commentary shows will soon be affected,” said Hong Kong-based political commentator Johnny Lau. “News shows are recorded, so they are already under close inspection. But news commentary shows will likely undergo self-censorship.”

Scholars said the announcement was not surprising given President Xi Jinping’s tough stance on media. 

“There has been a consistent policy to tighten media controls on the net as well as off the net. There has been quite a crackdown, even compared to [Xi’s] predecessors,” said To Yiu Ming, professor of journalism at Hong Kong Baptist University.

TV hosts in China must attain certain qualifications, but the rule does not cover guest hosts, according to a report by China News Service.

Many TV programmes invite celebrities or artists to be guest hosts, a practice that could result in improper remarks during live broadcasts, the report said.