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China bans talent shows in showbiz crackdown

September 2, 2021

China's broadcast regulator has called for talent shows, reality TV and male pop stars displaying "effeminate" behavior to be taken off air. The move is part of a wider crackdown on the booming entertainment industry.

A Chinese reality show playing on a television
Chinese authorities have recently been cracking down on a wide swathe of entertainment Image: Mark Schiefelbein/AP/dpa/picture alliance

It's a curtain call for China's reality talent shows, as China's booming television industry becomes the latest sector to be curbed by authorities. 

On Thursday, Beijing broadcast regulators ordered popular talent contest shows off air for allegedly displaying "warped" and "effeminate" behavior.

"Broadcast and TV institutions must not screen idol development programs or variety shows and reality shows," the National Radio and Television Administration said, as it announced new regulations.

The shows commonly put hundreds of young contestants though "boot camps" and then subject the performance to a public vote. 

Youth targeted by regulations 

Beijing authorities appear to be moving on sectors that are seen as wielding influence among Chinese youth.

In announcing the restrictions, the Chinese Communist Party's publicity department accused the entertainment industry of "severely polluting the social atmosphere" and being a bad influence on young people. 

In recent years, reality shows have gained traction with younger audiences in China, but have come under fire from authorities for promoting poor role models.

Authorities said "immoral" pop culture is leading youngsters down the wrong path, and say they want more "masculine" representations of men.

Artists with "incorrect political positions" must be shunned by broadcasters, according to the guidelines. Authorities say they want a "patriotic atmosphere" to be fostered on TV screens.

Under the rules, actors face harsher penalties if they engage in so-called unethical behavior. There will also be stricter measures in place when it comes to salaries, while those flouting tax laws will face penalties.

For example, last week, Chinese actress Zheng Shuang was fined the equivalent of $46 million for tax evasion. 

China cracks down

The Communist Party has the ability to censor anything seen to violate party values, and has been exacting more control over Chinese society by tightening oversight over a broad swathe of industries ranging from technology to education and culture.

Entertainment is the latest sector to have its wings clipped. There are other strict rules in place for other forms of entertainment, including video games, music and movies.

In August, it was announced that children would only be allowed to play 3-hours of video games a week, because of the "harmful effects" authorities claimed games were having on young minds.

kb/wmr (AFP, Reuters)