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Chinese authorities pull plug on 'vulgar' foreign-made TV

By Paul Armstrong and Feng Ke, CNN
updated 12:26 AM EDT, Tue October 22, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Satellite broadcasters banned from buying rights to more than one foreign-made program per year
  • Broadcasters previously told to cap imported television shows at 50 episodes
  • Regulations aimed at tackling "excessive" entertainment and the lack of diversity
  • Others are worried that the new regulation may drive away television viewers

(CNN) -- Chinese authorities have banned satellite broadcasters from buying the rights to more than one foreign-made program per year in a bid to tackle "vulgar" and "excessive" entertainment in Chinese television.

A statement from the State General Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film, and Television and published in Chinese state media on Sunday said the ruling would come into effect in 2014. It also stated that these foreign shows would not be allowed to air in prime time between 7:30 p.m. and 10:00 p.m. during the year the rights were purchased.

In February, regulators issued broadcasters with a directive capping imported television shows to 50 episodes, with no more than 25% of a station's total air time devoted to foreign-produced programing.

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Instead these key times in the day will be filled with what it described as "morality-building programs" with an educational value.

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The authorities in China have become increasingly concerned by the rising reliance on shows such as "Chinese Idol," a talent show that replicates the formula of the hugely popular "American idol." Broadcasters have found these types of programs easy to license and hugely popular with viewers and sponsors alike.

But Xia Chen'an, Deputy Editor-in-chief of Zhejiang satellite television, said in a statement that the new regulations would help to promote the originality of Chinese programs and tackle "excessive" entertainment and the lack of diversity. He said they would also address concerns about the "vulgarity" of Chinese television.

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Not everyone agrees.

"Eventually, the Chinese television market will move to a trend of 'less but good,'" one senior media professional, who preferred not to be named, told CNN. "But regulating TV entertainment feels like something we would do during the Maoist era."

Others are worried that the new regulations may drive away television viewers, especially with rapid growth of the Internet and mobile television market.

Regulating TV entertainment feels like something we would do during the Maoist era.
Chinese media professional

Meanwhile, news of the tightened regulations sparked an angry response on China's popular micro-blogging service, Weibo, with many criticizing the move as arbitrary and ignorant.

"Cultural dictatorship, we can't do anything about it," said one user known as sanbuzhongdeqie.

"This is sick, are we going back to Cultural Revolution?" asked another called fengkuangdeshiziMisselva. "TV is useless now; fortunately, we still have computers," he continued.

"What a ridiculous regulation, it's clear CCTV is afraid of losing its status or fearful to competition, so they can only use despicable measures to suppress other satellite televisions," posted another known as xiaojiewu.

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