China’s latest tough-as-nails media crackdown: the infomercial

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Soon to be banned.
Soon to be banned.
Image: YouTube

After cutting social media stars and internet rumors down to size, Beijing is taking on that notorious scourge of the late-night airwaves, the infomercial.

Starting Jan. 1, only one “television shopping advertisement” can air each hour, the General Administration for News Publication and Broadcasting said this week (link in Chinese), part of a larger push to “further strengthen satellite television channels.” The advertisement can’t be longer than three minutes, and the same ad can only be shown three times a day.

The government has also completely banned infomercials during prime time, from 6:00 pm to midnight, as well as banned the “news interview”-style ads that look like a legitimate news broadcast. And, in a blow to the plastic surgery industry, promotion of “orthopedics, body reshaping and liposuction” are prohibited, as well as “disguised promotion of breast enhancement.”

Commercials that allow viewers to order products directly from the phone or internet are prevalent on some channels of Chinese television, which may show just a few hours of real non-paid programing in between advertisements that run for hours at a time. They peddle everything from electronic goods like the “Starphone,” an iPhone copycat complete with apple-shaped logo, to extra-strength deodorant, to the “Top Charming” bust enhancer (above).

Jennifer Chiu contributed reporting.