Media regulation

Wang Shuo's public complaint against TV censors

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Wang Shuo's back in the news - this time for two reasons. First, when singer Xie Dong was arrested for drug use, he revealed that Xie was actually the son of famed cross-talk performer Hou Baolin, born out of wedlock.

Then he posted an "open letter of complaint" to his Kaila blog, claiming that TV censors have accepted hundreds of thousands of yuan in bribe money from producers seeking approval for their TV series. He said that Ye Jing, the director of Bloom of Youth (与青春有关的日子), a fictionalized account about Wang and other 80s figures, could testify about the corruption-filled review process. Ye claims that bribery was involved in his ill-fated 2000 TV series Laughingstock (贻笑大方).

Wang puts the number of TV drama episodes at 20,000 per year, or around 1000 series of 20 episodes apiece. He claims that typical bribes are 30,000 to 50,000 yuan per censor.

In a blog post this morning, Wang Xiaofeng asks some questions that are on everyone's mind:

I have a few questions for you all you consider:

1. If it is like Wang Shuo says for 20,000 episodes a year, then can these few censors watch them all? If they can't, then what?

2. Wang Shuo made a signed complaint. Since there's been a complaint, then it cannot be taken as mere self-promotion. Shouldn't the government make a response to a citizen's complaint, or issue an opinion or something?

3. If Wang Shuo makes a TV show in the future, will he face retaliatory attacks?

Point 2 was elucidated in an op-ed in The Beijing News yesterday that called Wang Shuo a model citizen:

Wang Shuo deserves respect for making a signed complaint

by Cao Lin / TBN

The past few days Wang Shuo has once again been the focus of media attention. This time it's not because of his role as a mocker of all comers, but rather that of a whistle-blower. He reported that the TV series censors of some TV stations used their position to exact bribes from production teams. He said that since 1997, there were production teams who, in order to pass, paid bribes to the censors in the form of film inspection fees. To date, "film inspection fees" have reached 30,000 to 50,000 per person. The more rounds of inspection there are, the more times fees must be paid; there are basically no first-round passes - at least two rounds are needed. He pointed to director Ye Jing who could confirm this (from The Beijing News).

Regardless of how "hooliganish" Wang Shuo is, or how controversial his words have been in the past, or how much nonsense he has done, this open, signed complaint about corruption among the censors shows one citizen's courage. Although the law stipulates that citizens have the obligation to report and testify, because there is no system for protection of witnesses in the scope of the law, those who make reports are frequently faced with pressure and attacks. This means that our corruption-hating compatriots require courage to stand up and make reports; signed complaints require even more courage. Putting ones name to something demonstrates complete confidence in the facts, complete trust in the anti-corruption departments, and a willingness to accept responsibility for the complaint. This is commendable. Moreover, to be "open," to expose to the stage of public opinion what one knows about inside matters so that the public can easily participate and oversee the anti-corruption investigation is beneficial to uncovering conspiracies.

A citizen not only dared to make a complaint: he dared to sign his name to an open complaint. This kind of citizen should win respect from the media, other interested parties, the anti-corruption departments, and even the departments involved and the target of the complaint. One can see from society's response that he has not received the respect he deserves.

First, the media has not given it enough attention. I noticed that after Wang Shuo posted his letter of complaint on his own blog, the media immediately reported it. However, because of Wang Shuo's position, most of the media ran this news item in the "Entertainment Channel" or the "Entertainment Pages."

In actuality, this is an important piece of news. It is one citizen's sober action. It is one citizen's heroic move against corruption.

After Wang Shuo's letter of complaint was revealed, responsible parties immediately said to the media, "Wang Shuo's words are irresponsible," and claimed, "We never received any sort of fees. I think those senior comrades did not receive any fees either."

A citizen dares to make a signed complaint against corruption. This demonstrates that he is willing to accept responsibility for the facts. A signed complaint is shows great responsibility - how is it "irresponsible"? From another angle, using "I've never accepted any fees" to deduce that "those senior comrades never accepted any" is less than rigorous.

Wang Shuo dared to make an open, signed complaint. If the anti-corruption departments respect the words of a citizen, they should make an immediate, positive response to his complaint, and make an objective, open, transparent investigation to give him an explanation. Only when citizens are shown fervent respect can society be cleaned to its core.

* * *

Here's Wang's original letter (note: there's another translation by Oiwan Lam at Global Voices Online):

An open letter of complaint

In response to the Anti-Malfeasance Month initiated by the Supreme People's Procuratorate Anti-Corruption & Bribery and Malfeasance Supervision Departments, I hereby make an open complaint against the widespread criminal malfeasance in which TV series censors at every TV station in the Radio, Film, and TV System accept bribes from TV production teams:

Since the 1990s, TV stations have set up program censor groups made up up retired comrades and so-called senior artists to perform political inspections of every TV show about to be aired. This was originally a means of strengthening administration and preventing the ever-increasing trend toward Hong Kong and Taiwan-style vulgarity, but such absolute power corrupts absolutely, and the small groups override the professional departments of the stations, and have the power of life and death over the broadcast of a TV show. After 1997, TV production teams had no recourse but to bribe the censor groups through an inspection fee in the hopes of winning approval. To date, this inspection fee has reached RMB 30,000 to 50,000 per group member per inspection; multiple rounds of inspection require multiple fees. There are essentially no shows that pass in one round; at least two round are necessary. Even if one ultimately fails to pass, money is not returned. And no one dares ask for it, because even if you've been shut down this time, there's always next time, unless you will have no more to do with them.

Nearly 20,000 episodes of TV series are produced every year in this country; calculating at an average of 20 episodes per series, this is nearly 1000 series. The 30,000 to 50,000 I mentioned is the price in Beijing; other areas may be different. Whether or not these 1000 series are able to be broadcast, they all must be inspected. Using the minimum price of 30,000 yuan per person per round times one thousand is 30 million times 10 years is 300 million, and after a second round this is 600 million. This doesn't include wining and dining - at every round of inspections, the production team must rent a luxurious hotel room and invite the censors to eat, drink, karaoke, and find girls. This bill is very clear to all film producers. They and all TV series directors are witnesses. Ask them and you will understand.

Before last year, the total annual box office of China's movies was just 1 billion. These punks - at least three to five people per group, 600 million times three or five people or even five or six people, I'm too lazy to work out what the total is. Senior comrades? What scum! Mutiny!

Complaint by: Citizen Wang Shuo, 2007.6.10.


Wang's letter starts out as a relatively sober complaint, but his tone gradually changes as he gets going, until at the end he resorts to non-standard characters (神马老同志 - "Senior comrades?") to emphasize his contempt for the censors. This lends credence to the widespread notion that Wang is taking advantage of the Supreme People's Procuratorate's anti-corruption campaign to keep his name in the news.

Here's an excerpt from a forum post that illustrates a typical "self-promotion" interpretation:

Wang Shuo's action kicked up waves in entertainment circles; industry insiders and other people involved expressed their positions on the issue, but few responded to Wang Shuo. You Xiaogang, head of the North Central Television Art Center said: The situation Wang Shuo mentions may have existed ten years ago, when one or two leaders had the power to decide - give a bit of money and you're OK. But today, it's practically impossible. So many hoops to jump through with no one person possessing the ultimate power to decide. No one can hide the truth on his own. Director Chen Fuqian said: SARFT has 20 people in its film censor group alone. You can buy off one or two people, but you can't buy off everyone.

Everyone can see that Wang Shuo always makes his entrance as a figure of justice, possessing the awe-inspiring aura of a righteous hero, but in reality Wang never finds much support for his positions. What is it that ultimately causes everyone to treat Wang Shuo's righteous displays with such indifference? We should be able to find it in the person of Wang Shuo himself.

At the beginning of the year, Wang Shuo cursed Sina to ruin, sooner or later, because Sina uses writing without compensating authors. Actually, apart from those web sites that have signed writers to contracts, and a website that pays authors to post on forums and blogs, netizens write articles and make posts simply for their own pleasure. The government has not issued any clear rules for this situation in particular. You're an author, Wang Shuo's, and writing for money is your skill, so there's no reason at all to be so flustered. If Sohu invites you to blog without compensation, you can refuse. If Sina impersonates Wang Shuo, you can sue. This is your right. But then Wang Shuo came out and said that he was going to run a paid blog on Xu Jinglei's Flower Village, one mao per click, and immediately everyone knew where Wang Shuo's true motivation lay. The prior vehemence was just a way of giving himself an opening.
...
As for Wang Shuo's "letter of complaint," there are plenty of legitimate reasons to object to bribery and malfeasance that harms the reputation of the party and the government....First, let's look at Wang Shuo's "letter of complaint." If this can be called a letter of complaint, then there's no reason for the national prosecutors to do anything else all day but read letters of complaint that they'll never finish. The important conditions of a letter of complaint - people, times, and facts - must be precise and accurate; otherwise, it will be a letter of false accusation. In these areas, what facts does Wang Shuo's "letter of complaint" contain? It can't be simply that the censor groups have taken bribes, no?
...
The past few years, Wang Shuo has lived a semi-private life for personal reasons and rarely has released any new works. His new work came out this year to a lukewarm reception; as the "hooligan literature" that first made Wang famous lost its novelty it became less appealing. This is entirely normal. It's understandable that Wang Shuo wants to gain profit and mindshare through the Internet, but this one trick after another isn't really natural. A game that's always exposed before it ends isn't all that smart. While this "letter of complaint" can resurrect stale gossip from the depths of his memory, and while he can deceive the public about the truth of his words, it really can't stand up under careful inspection.


But that's all in the past, now. Just this morning, mainland media reported that Wang claimed in an interview with Hong Kong media that the late Chen Xiaoxu had a son that she and her ex-husband kept secret for twenty years. The existence of this child apparently throws a wrench into the charity fund that Chen's estate was intended to set up.

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There are currently 1 Comments for Wang Shuo's public complaint against TV censors.

Comments on Wang Shuo's public complaint against TV censors

Does the absence of comments to this illuminating post indicate the indifference of Danwei readers to the entire bribery 'custom' (I avoid the use of the word 'scandal', since no one seems so upset and vocal about it)? Or does the absence indicate that the post is not illuminating, because everyone is already aware, and the indifference is so inbred in the national mindset that righteous indignation is replaced with a casual shrug? Wang Shuo, you'll need more than one mao/click to fund righteous indignation.

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