Media regulation

Harmonious society vs. popular television

When the family is well-regulated, the state will be rightly governed, and the whole land will be harmonious

It's getting harder and harder to escape the conclusion that SARFT just doesn't like TV. The latest reports from inside the Administration reveal that it is planning to clean up extramarital affairs in family dramas.

Yesterday's Mirror had the scoop, and provided a brief summary of SARFT's war on primetime:

Following the drop-off of costume dramas, emotional dramas of family ethics were on the increase, but the administrators have already begun privately discussing rules and policies to clean up what's currently on screen, and the next step will be to limit domestic dramas and period comedies.

Crime dramas, costume dramas, and emotional dramas had been the three pillars of Chinese TV. But out of consideration for the effect of crime dramas on the youth, SARFT ultimately kicked them out of prime-time. Subsequently SARFT overhauled costume dramas, placing limitations on the number that could be shown.

SARFT has also recently banned foreign cartoons from certain evening hours, leaving viewers with a choice between domestic animation and revolutionary classics for their prime-time viewing.

According to an "informed industry source" cited in the Mirror article, SARFT is seeking to limit domestic dramas and place controls on their content, since too many of them have as plot elements a third party breaking up a marriage — the incredibly popular A Chinese Style Divorce, for example. This is "incompatible with the general environment for constructing a harmonious society, and will have a definite influence on society."

SARFT may also be planning to put limits on period farces like My Own Swordsman (武林外传) and those Zhu Bajie comedies, possibly because they share similarities of attitude with the online spoof videos the agency condemned earlier this month.

An opinion piece in today's Yangcheng Evening News sees value in broadcasting these immoral shows:

The issues broached by TV shows with this subject matter are relatively serious - they reflect the problems that some families face, they illustrate the complexities of social reality, and they generate collisions with ethics and morality. Their use is appropriate - through stimulating the audience to reflect, they can lead public opinion in a correct direction.

From the other side, wiping out these TV series on controversial issues is just an ostrich policy. We cannot hide from the phenomena of "third parties" and "extramarital affairs," and we have no way to guarantee that children will not suffer that kind of harm. Even so, why not place these questions on the table and carefully discuss them to let adults learn to face and deal with these kinds of things rationally and let children gain a clear and deep understanding of this.

Similarly, some "farces" that have been suspected of being "malicious spoofs" have value as both entertainment and satire and should not be written off altogether. In actuality, they are type of thing that the larger audience enjoys watching, so the departments in charge should learn to respect the ability of the masses to be discriminating.

A commentary on Rednet that has been republished on a number of other portals sees the SARFT's summer prohibitions as the symptoms of a larger cultural and legal problem:

The frequency of these cultural prohibitions implies a overestimation of culture's capability to harm and a natural fear of cultural openness. The time when a single play could influence society or a generation has long past; this open era of diversity of culture and perspectives is also the era of the collapse of heroes and idols — what is there to fear in a few TV shows?

The frequency of these cultural prohibitions makes obvious the laziness of some departments. The management of the cultural marketplace, frequently trifling, consumes a large amount in administrative costs, and is by no means as quick an easy as not looking for right and wrong, not dividing the wheat from the chaff, but taking care of everything in one stroke. Consequently, prohibition has become their leading management concept.

The frequency of these cultural prohibitions is a metaphor for the stubbornness of prohibition culture. China has a cultural tradition of prohibition; over thousands of years, the administration of every dynasty is actually established onall kinds of prohibitions rather than legal norms. Through the present day we can still see scenes of rampant prohibition - every department ignores the laws and creates its own prohibitions to illustrate severity and importance.

For an opposing perspective, here's an excerpt from an opinion piece in Shanghai Daily in which the writer is responding to the new SARFT rules on online videos:

Regulations and restrictions don't interfere with people's rights to choose what they like. I see these regulations as a strong signal to host websites and other media outlets to clean up their act.

Government regulators sometimes make poor judgments, but should the public always get what it wants?

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There are currently 1 Comments for Harmonious society vs. popular television.

Comments on Harmonious society vs. popular television

I welcome less costume dramas, since most of them suck, but placing limits on 武林外传 would be terrible. China finally has a genuinely funny TV show.

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