Media regulation

Talent shows applaud the new professional exams; everyone else scoffs

Abing the blind erhu player

A Ministry of Culture proposal to implement certification exams for some 30 professional categories of cultural workers has drawn considerable response.

From The Beijing News, here are some details of the exams:

In the popular music evaluation, singers are not only requested to record rhythm and melody and to sight read both the five-line staff and simplified notation, but they must also be familiar with at least 100 popular songs from different eras so that they can identity the singer after just eight bars. Are such requirements overly stringent for pop singers who have had no formal music training? A representative of the Cultural Talent Certification Center said that this standard was formulated for entry to the profession and takes into account the fact that the certificate will be used by employers as the primary condition for employing talent. So karaoke masters with no professional skills will obviously be unable to pass.

Shanghai Youth Daily noted that the exam will consist of one hundred questions chosen randomly from a bank of 500 to 800. Certification will be divided into five grades: novice, intermediate, advanced, expert I, and expert II, and will last "a very long time."

Reports last week quoted a MoC party secretary who predicted that the certification process would work to cool down the overheated talent show market. In response, major talent shows like My Hero, Happy Boys, and The Show, announced their support for the certification and for any regulations the Ministry of Culture saw fit to implement. Eager to throw off their crass reputation, they emphasized the rigor of their current selection process as well as the high proportion of drama school graduates in the ranks of successful contestants.

However, that was the extent of support. The vast majority of responses were as critical as they have been to any recent regulatory measures. China Daily excerpted a number of Chinese-language editorials, and quoted a law professor who said that under the Administrative License Law of 2004, the Ministry of Culture lacks the authority to issue licenses or certifications.

Many commentaries name-dropped famous folk musicians and performers who'd be shut out of a regulated market, and wondered whether foreign stars who performed on the mainland would be exempt. Translated below is a typical example; the author concludes with a quote from an August, 2006, op-ed by Ye Tan in Southern Metropolis Daily. Ye, the lead commentator for National Business Daily, complained in his article about the Karaoke copyright database and new computer standards for web cafes. With only minor changes to the subject, that editorial could be recycled for this latest regulatory flap.

Would Abing be forbidden to play the erhu?

by Cao Lin / Jinbao Daily

It's fortunate that blind Abing has departed this age; according to those proud officials, he wouldn't even be qualified to play the erhu, since Abing was both blind and illiterate. So too with entertainers like Hou Baolin, Ma Sanli, Ma Ji, Shan Tianfang, Xin Fengxia. Pavarotti and Domingo will no longer be qualified to go on stage in China, for they lack certification. This cultural policy is truly uncultured. Culture and the arts can only flourish in a diverse, free environment; this is a realm that resists hard standards, one that should not require a certificate. To put it bluntly, who made those government hacks qualified to certify artists?

An examination of the professional quality of culture and arts professionals can be accomplished entirely by the hand of the market; there is no need for the hand of the government to interfere. In a survival-of-the-fittest system where performances are all geared toward the market, the market itself can carry out a keen, accurate assessment of the professional skills of a practitioner. And under these market standards, many art forms that are in danger of slipping away can find rescue, and the talent of many folk artists can be more widely exposed, allowing the public to enjoy the blossoming of culture and the arts.

Requiring cultural practitioners to be certified to work reveals the bureaucratic provincialism of the administrative authority. Looking back over the past few months, we see the administrative actions taken by government departments: SARFT issues bans, followed a few days later by permits; another department issues a special computer setup for web-cafes along with an insignia; a department implements a "national internal management service system for karaoke"; and then today's demand from this department for professionals to "possess certification to get a job." Many administrative departments are wracking their brains to come up with permits; they "issue certifications because they have a job." They treat a self-governing sector as an area in which they can exercise their own power - "I opened this hillside, I cut the trees; if you want to pass, then you must pay a toll" - on their own land, they develop this managed economy to the greatest extent possible.

These are no mere managers, supported by the public's tax monies and working in the public interest - they are "kings of the mountain." Like one critic said, "I see a highly dangerous trend: administrative government departments see the sectors they manage as walled-off areas that no one else may touch. They work arbitrarily like tyrants, and the standards they personally set in place they impose upon the sector's practitioners. Riding on horseback, they exert their administrative abilities as far as they can go, while anyone walking on the ground has to show "travel papers" in order to exit"....

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There are currently 3 Comments for Talent shows applaud the new professional exams; everyone else scoffs.

Comments on Talent shows applaud the new professional exams; everyone else scoffs

"A representative of the Cultural Talent Certification Center said that this standard was formulated for entry to the profession and takes into account the fact that the certificate will be used by employers as the primary condition for employing talent."

Mao forbid an employer be forced to actually listen to a potential hire sing. Can you imagine the anarchy that having employers make their own decisions about a candidate's talent would result in?

Well, even if these regulations come to pass, I'm sure they'll work out about as well as all the other laws and regulations the government passes. Now if you'll excuse, I need to go get food from an unlicensed street vendor so I can relax in my non-fireproof carcinogen-laced chair whilst watching a pirated DVD.

John B.
You are hilarious. So true you are.
Keep on Truckin'

Could anyone imagine American Idol bragging that most of its competitors were from Julliard? Perhaps CCTV will be able to launch a show called... "They're Certified: Why Can't They Sing?"

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