China’s top TV regulator on Monday issued a list of 102 state-backed TV documentaries set to hit the airwaves by 2025, indicating the kind of content Beijing wishes to promote amongst local viewers in the years to come.
The titles are the first batch selected by China’s National Radio and TV Administration as part of a project begun in 2018 to “create and promote documentary films that ‘Record the New Era’ ” That means the development of propaganda that bolsters the ruling Communist Party’s legitimacy by showcasing its recent achievements and historical roots.
The Administration noted that “key topics of priority will be favored and supported with preferential funding and policies,” highlighting the Communist Party’s involvement in crafting its own cultural narrative. Major content themes include poverty alleviation and 2021’s 100th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party, a key government milestone expected to be accompanied by heightened media censorship and online speech controls. The Administration had previously said that 100 commemorative film and TV works celebrating the centenary will be released in 2021 for the occasion.
These 102 forthcoming TV documentaries were specifically chosen to accompany China’s 14th Five-Year Plan, a set of goals and policy guidelines that maps out the country’s social and economic development directives for 2021 to 2025. Recently approved in late October in draft form, the plan will be formally launched at a major government meeting in March.
The Administration explained that the initiative seeks to facilitate the “in-depth study, promotion, and implementation of the spirit” of the October high-level Communist Party plenum at which the draft was approved. It also sought to focus on the government’s upcoming cultural development goals, strengthen the country’s ability to create documentaries, and — least importantly — to create good films.
Their project titles mostly harbor no mystery. Some of the more blunt include: “Escape from Poverty,” “The People’s Moderately Prosperous Society,” “How China Feeds 1.4 Billion People,” “I’m a Party Member,” “The Early Spread of Marxism in China,” and “Red Memory: 365 Moments in Party History.” The state-run Tibet Radio and TV station will create a documentary titled “The Party’s Glory Shines At The Country’s Border.”
Poverty alleviation works will focus on “lively and vivid stories” about Guizhou, Yunnan and Guangxi provinces in particular, as well as Yan’an, the Shaanxi province-set city that served as the Communists’ headquarters in the ‘30s and ‘40s.
Eleven listed works are produced solely by the state broadcaster CCTV, which is directly controlled by the National Radio and TV Administration and is a frequent co-production partner of the BBC on factual programs such as the 2019 nature doc “Seven Worlds, One Planet.”
Release dates have not yet been decided.
The initial 2018 documentary project outline had a section that was much more outward-looking, calling for the “encouragement and support of Chinese-foreign co-produced documentaries that ‘tell Chinese stories well’,” a common propaganda catchphrase. It also stated greater support for Chinese documentaries going abroad to air on “international mainstream media” or overseas festivals.
Monday’s notice did not mention any overseas ambitions for the 102 projects, which are unlikely to find much of an audience abroad, aimed squarely as they are at local viewers and internal government messaging.