Media regulation

Talent show pulled off the air by SARFT

Dai Chuang debases himself by kneeling to offer Yang Erche Namu a ring.
The hammer has come down on reality shows as, for the first time, SARFT has pulled a talent competition currently in progress. Previous regulatory interference in the crowded market for Idol-knockoffs was limited to name changes, design tweaks, and scuttling of programs pre-launch.

Yesterday, SARFT issued a memo ordering the suspension of the Chongqing TV program 第一次心动 ("First Heartthrob", some in the media are calling it, but we'll call it "Shock to the Heart" for kicks), ostensibly for retooling into a less vulgar piece of entertainment.

From SARFT's public announcement of the memo:

[the program] seriously strayed from the mission of the competition, and immersed itself in stunts and sensationalism. Judge selection, competition stages, panelist behavior, musical content, planning and management, and broadcast supervision all exhibited major lapses. This was detrimental to the image of TV media and caused harmful social influences; there was a fierce backlash from the general public. At the Chongqing Radio and TV Bureau and Chongqing TV, the program editors and persons in charge lack a strong sense of responsibility and guidance. They have professional shortcomings, and there are holes in their control over content, all of which led to the outbreak of the above problems. They are hereby criticized by national notice.

The Notice said that the design of the stages of the "Shock to the Heart" competition were crude and ugly, the judges had gaffes in their words and actions, the design of the program was not up to common standards of artistry, program content was vulgar in tone, and the song performances were mean and tacky. CQTV was irresponsible in its live broadcast and did not take any effective measures to control the chaotic scene; by letting it play out, it abandoned its responsibility as a broadcaster. By not reporting this situation to the State Administration, the Chongqing Radio and TV Bureau failed in its management.

To strengthen propaganda discipline, SARFT has decided:

1. Broadcasts of the "Shock to the Heart" competition will be halted immediately;
2. Chongqing Radio and TV Bureau and CQTV will carefully investigate problems, absorb lessons, and write an in-depth report according to various SARFT management regulations concerning the administration of general entertainment programs and the broadcast of audience-participatory selection-style TV events;
3. Program designers, censors, administrative managers, and related personnel will be strictly dealt with.

The Notice continues with standard boilerplate urging other broadcasters and administrators to draw lessons from this episode and strengthen their own work habits, so as to "resolutely carry out banning orders and to exercise scientific management, bold management, and strict management."

As big a deal as this is, it was not entirely unexpected. Like other reality shows, "Shock to the Heart" has been the subject of rumors about back-room dealings and game fixes, but it was last Friday's on-the-set chaos (alluded to in the SARFT notice) that seems to have been the final straw.

Judges Ke Yimin and Yang Erche Namu
The scene on Friday's broadcast involved panelists Yang Erche Namu and Ke Yimin (Liu Xiaoqing and Pan Yueming were also judges but they aren't part of the controversy). During one of the segments, contestant Dai Chuang knelt on the ground to present a ring to Yang (end of this clip), which she graciously accepted, but she then proceeded to lecture him about a real man's duty not to kneel at the drop of a hat.

Then in another segment, Ke asked Dai to choose between her (in green) and Yang (wearing a pink flower in her hair) as a potential girlfriend. He chose Ke, at first saying that she was younger than Yang, and then, when pressed, saying that he felt Yang was stupid and Ke was smart. This prompted another angry lecture from Yang about sincerity and dignity (in which she said in English, "I don't like you."). Then she returned his ring and sent him out. After the next contestant came in, Ke gave an impassioned defense of her integrity, threatened to walk out, and then burst into tears.

Ke Yimin's agent said that her tears weren't because of the contestant, but because the director had issued an order directing her not to speak - the director was working on time constraints (this was close to midnight, and the show didn't end for another half hour), but Ke thought that she was being punished.

Impromptu? Scripted? In any event, it's obvious that such a program could not continue to be broadcast in a harmonious society.

In response to this latest SARFT move, QQ put up a tongue-in-cheek profile of the Administration (screengrab here if the link is removed). Asking "What if SARFT were a person?" it notes the following traits:

  • He'd be a selfless counselor for married sexual life - SARFT's 2006 ban on depictions of extramarital affairs in TV dramas;
  • He'd be a hot-blooded youth, a fervent realist - SARFT's moves to champion realistic dramas and minimize fantasies and costume epics;
  • He'd be a teacher and friend to minors everywhere - SARFT's limits on programs in local dialects, showing that it recognizes the great need for standard Mandarin in the lives of today's youth;
  • He'd be a person of noble sentiment who shirks from gutter culture - "In 2002, a TV show called Meteor Rain swept across the country. But in the eyes of some adults it reportedly 'poisoned the youth and manufactured spiritual garbage.' So, like a true shooting star, Meteor Rain vanished from the screen."
  • And: "If you have a forthright friend in your life, directness and purity are his strong points, but if he's too sensitive, then you'll find it difficult and tiring when you are together. You might even question at times whether he's looking out for your welfare, for this kind of forceful leadership seems a bit too crude."

Spin from the producers is that this is just a temporary halt, and the program will be back in a week. However, as late as yesterday, a spokesperson associated with the production company was still cautioning people about "rash speculation" and denying that SARFT had anything to do with the suspension.

And the director has pooh-poohed the idea that the SARFT order came in response to the program's pandering to low taste - as he tells it, the Administration has the safety of the studio audience at heart. According to the Changjiang Times, "[show director] Zhou Zhishun told the reporter that in a live broadcast, safety is of paramount importance. This sudden event caused a loss of control on the set, and hence the restructuring was requested by SARFT."

So "Shock to the Heart" may be gone for good. Even if it comes back, clean and healthy, will there be any reason to watch?

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There are currently 3 Comments for Talent show pulled off the air by SARFT.

Comments on Talent show pulled off the air by SARFT

Meteor Rain is prime material for keeping the teenage/college girls busy so they won't all become counter revolutionaries. I don't get it.

The "making of" this show would be good. Frankly the shambles sounds great.

By "fierce backlash" did they mean, "a lot of people are watching"? Sounds like top entertainment to me. And to think I've been shunning Chinese television.

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