TV content curbed amid fear of unrest

China’s regulators have imposed tough conditions on TV productions, banning skeins that feature time travel and remakes of key classic texts.

They are also making it difficult to produce cop shows that smack too much of the West.

A report by Li Jingsheng, head of TV at the all-powerful State Administration of Radio, Film and Television, said shows in which protagonists travel backwards or forward through time via flashbacks would be banned until there was more discussion of the genre.

This is an increasingly popular plot device that SARFT believes violates historical fact.

He also said adaptations of China’s Four Great Classical Novels — “Dream of the Red Chamber,” “The Water Margin,” “Romance of the Three Kingdoms” and “Journey to the West” — would not be approved. Several have been made in recent years for TV and film to a mixed critical and public reception.

There are a number of movie adaptations based on “Journey to the West” currently in the works, including “The Monkey King,” a 3D feature directed by Cheang Pou-soi and starring Donnie Yen, and it’s not clear if the ban applies to these.

SARFT has also withheld approval for 30 TV police procedurals.

The bans came after a meeting earlier this month of SARFT leaders during which the body called for TV makers to stop cloning Western product and produce good quality, intrinsically Chinese skeins.

One biz figure, who asked to remain anonymous, said, “Censorship is getting tighter and tighter, and you just don’t know what will be hit next.”

One possible reason for heightened sensitivity in TV content: Paranoia is growing in China about public disorder in the wake of the revolutions sweeping through the Middle East and North Africa. The government is cracking down on all forms of dissent, arresting rights activists and dissident voices such as avant garde artist Ai Weiwei. Producers also have to toe the line, it appears.

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