16 February 2019

POLICY WATCH: TV stations get a reality check with new guideline

Television stations in China are bracing for a tighter operating environment as authorities seek to further limit reality TV shows, talent contests and other populist entertainment in a bid to promote diversified and locally produced programming, especially on culture and children’s edutainment.

The State General Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television, the nation’s media regulator, has urged local television stations to broadcast at least 30 minutes of domestically produced documentaries and 30 minutes of domestically made children’s television programming per day starting from next year, according to a circular issued on October 20.

Under the new policy, at least 30 percent of the TV stations’ weekly airtime should be devoted to programs such as news, culture, children’s entertainment and sports.

Meanwhile, the government has called for a reduction in the number of so-called reality shows or talent shows that are currently drawing hundreds of millions of eyeballs across the nation. The administration will select one best talent show every three months to be aired during the prime time of 7:30 pm to 10:30 pm, while other similar talent show programs will not be allowed to air during that slot.

Currently, such talent shows occupy prime time slots at night at all satellite television channels due to the massive viewer response, which in turn is boosting the TV stations’ advertising dollars. But authorities are concerned that such market-oriented programming is leading to duplication of content across stations, giving viewers less choice.

The new policy also set limit on the programs taking reference from foreign-produced shows.

The Voice of China, a successful reality talent show that has attracted millions of Chinese viewers, could be affected under the regulation, as the show is based on the Dutch-produced The Voice of Holland program. 

The new rule states that each satellite television channel can only have one foreign-format television program each year. That could limit the options for television channels as most of them usually take reference from foreign programs for new ideas.

Channel heads will need to prod their creative teams for more local ideas under the new policy, as they will not be allowed to purchase too many foreign programs and customize them for Chinese viewers.

It has been much easier and efficient for television channels to copy the foreign program format to increase their viewership ratings and earn huge sums of advertising dollars in a short period of time.

The new guideline comes as the government has been monitoring the market for some time. Authorities announced in July that they would cap the number of talent shows focused on singing competitions to prevent such programs from clogging airwaves during the summer.

The administration had ordered satellite broadcasters to stop investing in new singing competition shows. Shows that have already been produced, but have not yet aired, should not be aired until after the summer vacation; and series currently being aired should be aligned with different schedules, under the government directive.

– Contact the reporter at [email protected]



    EJ Insight writer

    EJI Weekly Newsletter

    Please click here to unsubscribe