Media regulation

SARFT reminds you to avoid celebrity scandals


Mainland Chinese media is reporting today that the State Administration of Radio, Film, and Television handed down a notice in mid-April ordering television stations not to sensationalize celebrity scandals.

The "Notice restating the ban on sensationalizing celebrity scandals, salacious news, and misdeeds" is thought by many in the industry to be a direct response to the video interviews Gillian Chung gave upon her return to the entertainment world after last year's "sexy photo-gate" scandal involving Edison Chen.

From the Shanghai Morning Post:

SARFT's ban notice strictly bars arts, entertainment, and interview programs from discussing society news and gossip about celebrity scandals or the private love affairs of entertainers. Any radio or television station found to be broadcasting this type of content will be held responsible, starting with the program planner. The notice also strictly stipulates that administrative departments and broadcast agencies shall investigate all programming under their jurisdiction to ensure that "scandal-blemished celebrities" will not pollute the airwaves and misguide the viewing and listening audience.

An industry insider disclosed that the Administration's ban was very likely motivated by Gillian Chung: on April 16, a satellite station sent an urgent notice to the media saying that a special feature on Gillian, which one of its programs had produced in Hong Kong in March, had been "postponed" from an original air-date of mid-April. The program team's public statement said, "Since shooting on the next installment has not yet finished, out of concern for completeness and continuity, we have decided to postpone it. When filming is entirely finished, it will be broadcast at an appropriate time."

The ban order points its knives at "scandal-blemished celebrities," the program was scheduled for mid-April, SARFT's notice was issued on April 13, and the station announced its postponement on the 16th, so the timing matches perfectly.

Is "no talking about celebrity scandals or the private love affairs of entertainers" an across-the-board rule, and will all incidents involving "problem celebrities" be barred from the screen from now on? Yesterday, producers and personnel involved in celebrity programming spoke on this issue.

Xu Jing, producer of Family Studio, which has made a name for itself in Shanghai by featuring celebrity families, said in an interview, "The concept of so-called negative celebrities needs to be carefully thought over. Every celebrity has a lengthy personal history, full of ups and downs, so if a universal standard is applied, then lots of people will be unable to appear on-screen. Yesterday we just finished a program on Kenny Bee. Does his bankruptcy count as a negative? In the studio, he talked a lot about his personal history and actually brought up lots of positive information." Xu disclosed that local celebrity programs in Shanghai had always been rather mainstream in their choice of guests, but they could still try to use celebrities like Kenny Bee who could ultimately end up having a positive effect on the audience. Of course, material that is too edgy or sensitive would have to be avoided. She also said that the station had always had a strict review system that was taken very seriously starting with topic selection, and for that reason local celebrity programs are fundamentally in a safe position.

Entertainment news programs are the other major focus of the ban order. Yesterday, a manager connected to a well-known entertainment news program said that celebrity news would not follow a one-size-fits-all policy; major figures and significant events could still be done, but they had to be done with care: "Malicious sensationalism is one technique to get ratings, but looking for the truth of the situation, giving the audience the information they need, and guiding them in a positive direction is a technique as well. The key is having a sense of proportion."

This apparently doesn't apply to online entertainment journalism: the Netease repost of the Shanghai Morning Post piece ran underneath a promo for the Hunan TV interview with Gillian Chung alluded to in the article.

TV stations are already supposed to be avoiding celebrity gossip: this is merely a "restatement" of existing regulations. Writing on, commentator Guo Wenjing points out the problems with simply re-releasing a set of rules and hoping that people will really listen this time:

In a rule-of-law society, the normal state should be for orders to be carried out. Continual "restatements" will only continue to undermine your own authority. For this reason, we have to ask: why weren't SARFT's previous orders carried out? Why do they need to be restated? Were they unable to be enforced, or were they never meant to be enforced in earnest in the first place? If they weren't meant to be enforced, then this "restatement" is just for appearances, to dupe the public. If they are not enforceable, then we need to reflect on why, and then issue "supplemental rules" rather than a simple "restatement." A simple restatement is essentially lazy administration.

Only SARFT can answer the question of whether or not it really intended to enforce previous ban orders, and it ought to provide that answer. But looking at the notice, this writer has found that it is indeed unenforceable, with at least two ambiguous terms. The first is "celebrity": there's no standard for what sort of person counts as a celebrity. The second is "sensationalize": at the moment there is no way to judge what sensationalism is. You may say that defining "celebrity" is splitting hairs, but without an accepted standard for "sensationalism," the ban order is no better than a blank piece of paper.

Why do we need a clear definition of "sensationalism"? Because this is an issue related to the media's right to report and the public's right to know, so we must be careful. A typical definition is "An individual or group using the media to carry out controversial or meaningless criticism, praise, or exposure of an individual or event through fabricated, exaggerated, speculative, or other abnormal reporting techniques." This definition appears to take into account motive, distinguishing features, and methods, but in terms of "salacious secrets and scandals," what distinguishes "reporting" from "sensationalizing"? This is critical if SARFT wants to enforce the ban order.

SARFT's ban on another scandal-troubled celebrity is still in effect: all shots of blacklisted Lust, Caution star Tang Wei were cut out of the mainland broadcast of the Hong Kong Film Awards last week.

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There are currently 17 Comments for SARFT reminds you to avoid celebrity scandals.

Comments on SARFT reminds you to avoid celebrity scandals

Hmmm…good luck banning news about celebrities! I’ve been to many countries and have lived in many different places, and I can say that people everywhere have an insatiable thirst to know about celebrities’ sex lives.

If this is particularly about Gillian Chung, then I think that it’s unfortunate, since her career was ruined (through little fault of her own) and she is trying to rebound, which she should at least have the right to attempt to do. And of course, I sense a strong sexist element in all of this as well. SARFT would like to do nothing more, I’m sure, than to dictate the terms of which images and sexual and social constructions are appropriate (ie. pretty, cute, innocent, overtly submissive, apolitical= good, all else = bad).

But then again, if they’re successful and people can’t focus on the bread and circus, maybe they’ll pay more attention to more substantial news!

If only American media had this policy we would all be better off.

哗! Just in time for the current scandal involving Guangdong TV celebrity hostess Li Yong (李泳)!

"If only American media had this policy we would all be better off."---DAVEEENO

I absolutely agree. Why should we care?

There are more important things happening like our brave soldiers who are losing their lives in wars they don't care much about.

The media in general should ban all this crap

The media cannot and will not ban any of this. It is their lifeblood.

It's only up to individuals to decide their own pathetic lives are on par with a pathetic celeb's. Though with a lot less money and glamor.

Think these Hongkey celebs like Gillian Chung can go the way of rehab-as-career-rebound(a la Robert Downey Jr.)???

LCLT - I doubt it. We never saw RD Jr's black abalone splashed all over the internet. Some things just can't be lived down.

So this means celebrity scandals will pushed to the too yellow and too violent domains of internet forums?

I have reason to be convinced that some of the sons or daughters of our big bosses have been involved in big scandals or troubles,hehehe!

Lao Zhang, hehehe, what reason do you have other than vicarious pleasure, hehehe?

Does laughing, hehehe, make you any bigger or smarter than the ones you laugh at? Do you have any other comment than "hehehe""

@ScottLoar: It hurts the feelings of the Chinese people that you mock our over usage of "hehe", "LOL", "heehee", "haha", etc. to emphasize our collective glee and perception of our clever and humorous selves...

It is fine, my son aka Scottloar! is based on events in China, so the common word "hehehe" often used by Chinese Netizens is easy to be understood. English is an international language,not the patents of USA or UK,hehehe!
I am not wiser than you, but just older than you, that is why I call myself Lao Zhang.


Another thing that should be banned, at least in the US, is for celebrities to talk about politics.

Celebrities are typically dumb as a rock here and are better off not convincing anyone in baseless claims. The only thing worse than a celebrity talking about politics is Bill o Reilly talking about politics.

None of the shit that guy says makes sense and he gets payed for it.

"The only thing worse than a celebrity talking about politics is Bill o Reilly talking about politics.

None of the shit that guy says makes sense and he gets payed for it."

He should get paid for it!!!! He makes News Corporation a ton of money!!!!!!!

I am certainly NOT in the business of defending Bill O'Reilly although I would rather you didn't insult us great Irish folk. We have had enough suffering with the potato famine, Dan Quayle, and Notre Dame allowing Chairman Obama to speak at commencement.

Like another great Irish-American Conan O'Brien, Mr. O'Reilly is a distinguished graduate of Harvard University which most Chinese equate with someone being brilliant. He doesn't need that piece of paper however because the man is smart he just chooses to seem like a moron to fill his bank account.

You certainly don't understand the game.
O'Reilly isn't a fool. O'Reilly is one of the better players of the game and thus a genius.

Most of what he says DOES make sense BUT the manner in which he says it is very very questionable. Sure, you can say he is lacking in the class-department, or he isn't a gentleman, or he doesn't have much social grace, but you can't deny he is intelligent.

He is smart, however he is also in love with money and chooses to make money by telling his fan-base what they want to hear. This is the same method Mancy Pelosi, and this Backwards Obama employ.

It is pure show business---plain and simple.

People at FOX are known as "Commentators" not "Journalists" and they never refer to themselves as such. Sure, it is misleading but they have covered their tracks. News Corp, has the best lawyers money can buy. All employees have to take a seminar now for instance and sign their life away not involving News Corp. in any way if there is any harassment of any kind stemming back from an alleged incident Mr. O' had with a staff member.

If we all took them for what they are and read the fine print we would all conclude the same thing: it is a money-making operation. Stop attacking Mr. O', News Corp., and so forth just because they are better business people.

Keep saying they are "stupid", and "dumb", and "idiots" because they can still nurse their wounds from the comfort of their yachts off Martha's Vineyard, their Park Avenue penthouses, and on the Corinthian leather in the back of their Rolls Royce.

Sgt. Slaughter: "Like another great Irish-American Conan O'Brien, Mr. O'Reilly is a distinguished graduate of Harvard University which most Chinese equate with someone being brilliant. He doesn't need that piece of paper however because the man is smart he just chooses to seem like a moron to fill his bank account."

While I agree with your characterization of Mr. O'Brien as a great American, I take offense (as should Conan) to your linking him to that pinhead and poster-child for the dumbing-down of American political discourse, Mr. Bill O'Reilly. If, as you suggest, Mr. O'Reilly makes a daily ass of himself in order to appeal to the hoopleheads (yes, I'm an elitist) and line his wallet, then more's the reason to be disgusted with him. Your defense of Mr. O'Reilly reminds me of that quintessentially American bumpersticker, "He who dies with the most toys wins." Such thinking makes me hope for a long and difficult recession - i.e., an economic hardship that forces us all to rethink everything about the way we live and measure success.

Finally, you hit upon a bit of a pet peeve of mine by mentioning Bill O'Reilly's association with Harvard University. In fact, he did graduate with a degree from Harvard, but it was a masters degree in public admin from the Kennedy School, a cash cow (read, degree mill) if there ever was one. As often as not, it's for sad types (e.g., foreign diplomats and loudmouth television personalities) who want a prestigious credential to add to their CVs and are willing to pay through the nose for it. Nothing impressive about it. Just a notch higher than the equally (and unjustifiably) expensive Harvard ESL programs that legions of Asians flock to each year.

I like you buddy, but please don't be silly.

You misinterpret my point. No, I do not think Bill O'Reilly is as cool as Conan. All I said was that like Conan he attended Harvard. It's a fact.

O'Reilly's intent first and foremost in what he does is to make money. No one can deny that. What I was simply defending was that folks call him names suggesting he is stupid. He is not.

I was also NOT suggesting that because he went to Harvard that makes him any better than the rest of us losers who didn't. I was illustrating that the general perception is that Student + Harvard = smartypants. This is true in the U.S. and it is true in China that most people believe this.

O'Reilly is a businessman, and a successful one at that. He sells crap and people buy that crap. Therefore he is smart because he accomplishes nothing and gets paid for it. You certainly can not deny that this is brilliance.

All colleges are "diploma mills". There is really no use for colleges anymore because like O'Reilly they are most concerned with business.

I however am NOT saying Bill O is smart because he makes a lot of money, he is smart because he is successful at what he just so happens coincidentally that what he does is make money.

Americans ARE having economic hard-times ala the "recession", but it won't change people's mindset one bit. There is this stupid Chairman Obama jerk that keeps bailing out all the idiots who started this mess. They however aren't idiots---we are---because they too stole all of our (taxpayers') money.

Good news. I've been fed up with those stupid celebrities. Ha, ha ...

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