Sarft censures China’s TV censors

Org warns about accepting bribes

China watchdog the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television had a busy week keeping tabs on TV.

Sarft warned that censors taking bribes from TV producers would be severely punished after a top scribe said backhanders to censors were common practice in the biz.

And the regulator also ordered two provincial pubcasters to suspend all commercials as punishment for repeatedly screening banned medical ads.

The media watchdog vowed to fight corruption in television drama approvals after Wang Shuo, a prominent writer who used to script skeins and had a novel adapted into a series, blew the whistle on censors taking bribes.

Wang said a small group of censors, mostly retired or senior artists, had “absolute power” to demand bribes from production companies in the name of censorship fees and had done so since the 1990s.

Fellow helmer Ye Jing was quoted as saying that he paid more than $13,000 in “censorship fees” for a TV play that was censored three times but did not get a greenlight at the end.

“TV production companies can report to the administration if censors collected unwarranted fees. If proved true, we will strictly deal with it,” Li Jingsheng, Sarft director of TV drama, said in an online interview quoted on the Xinhua news agency. He would not respond directly to Wang’s personal statement.

Meanwhile, two channels run by Ningxia Television Station and Gansu Television Station suspended all commercials last Monday and were ordered to “earnestly criticize their mistakes” in written reports, according to a notice issued by Sarft.

Punishment is the toughest handed down by Sarft since regulations were issued in August last year banning TV and radio advertisements for medicines, medical equipment, weight loss, breast enlargement and other beauty products and treatments.

The administration said the two TV channels were discovered running the banned medical ads in June despite that fact that they had been warned and notified to stop four times from February to May.

The Ningxia TV channel ran commercials for a type of “magic” slimming product. Sarft did not specify what products the Gansu TV channel was advertising.

Sarft said neither channel could resume screening commercials until there were assurances they would not recur.

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