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China’s Regulators Target Reality Shows in Latest TV Cleanup

China’s media regulators have openly criticized the country’s TV content and this week unveiled tougher rules for reality TV shows.

The State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television (SAPPRFT) said in a circular on Wednesday (July 22) that reality shows must become less vulgar, less dependent on celebrity and do more to uphold “Socialist values” such as honesty, integrity and resilience.

Broadcasters must also scale back their growing use foreign formats, notably Korean and U.S. variety shows. The SAPPRFT said that Chinese producers should be have more confidence in China’s own culture.

The notice also reiterated other recent pronouncements against the onscreen use of celebrities who’ve been linked to drugs, prostitution or drunk driving.

The regulator said that too many TV shows were profit-driven, shallow, dependent on stunts and inclined to create social conflict.

The new rules would appear to be bad news for broadcasters, producers and importers of formats as they may make China’s TV sector more boring. If that happens, audiences may continue to turn to the Internet for entertainment.

The regulators are also busily trying to clean up the Internet too through similar notices, withdrawal of certain permits and growing censorship of online content, which previously got away with a lighter touch.

Those companies that have expanded into set-top decoders and similar hardware appear to be coming under greater scrutiny too. Branded content, foreign shows and user-generated content may all become more problematic, while other industry sources suggest that SAPPRFT will also require streaming devices and apps to be approved before use.

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