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China reins in false ‘Idol’

Gov't moving against TV talent contests, online gaming

Western moguls waiting for any sign of China loosening its grip on the media, don’t hold your breath.

The recent crackdown on the Westernization of China’s culture ramped up again last week, with the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television clamping down on “vulgar” TV talent contests and the government moving to restrict online game play by youths. Both arenas had seen tremendous growth in recent years.

New TV regs, issued March 13, seem to be aimed squarely at the country’s most popular show, “The Mongolian Cow Sour Yogurt Supergirl Contest,” an “American Idol” clone. Its second-season finale drew an incredible 400 million viewers last summer and introduced its young aud to that most Western of practices: voting. Many contestants, including 21-year-old winner Li Yuchun, shunned demure dresses in favor of racy outfits.

The new regs restrict live broadcasts by provincial satellite stations, making it harder for Hunan Satellite TV, which produces the show, to air it from its province. Contestants younger than 18 must get official approval to take part, and clothes and set decorations “should not be in poor taste.”

The new gaming regs would limit players under 18 to less than five hours per day. They’ll also require all players to log on with their national I.D. numbers for tracking purposes.