Chinese TV viewers beware: for the next few months, there’s going to be major changes to your regular programming.
As part of the celebrations of the 70th anniversary of the founding of of the People’s Republic of China on Oct. 1, the National Radio and Television Administration (NRTA) yesterday (July 31) issued a list of 86 TV dramas that it recommends broadcasters air as part of a “100-day display” event.
The shows on the list laud the achievements of the Chinese Communist Party, which established the republic in 1949 following the end of a years-long civil war where it defeated the Nationalist party. In addition to the list of celebratory TV shows, the regulator also issued guidelines on what broadcasters should not air in that time frame, including any historical period shows or idol dramas that are “relatively entertaining,” read a notice (link in Chinese) from the department.
Lovely China (link in Chinese) for example tells the story of Fang Zhimin, a party leader in the 1920s who was executed by the Nationalists in 1935, while Chongqing Negotiations recounts how party leader Mao Zedong met with Nationalist leader Chiang Kai-shek in 1945 in the southwestern Chinese city to talk about the possibility of sharing power. According to the party’s version of events (link in Chinese), reticence on the part of Chiang led to the breakdown of the talks and triggered the civil war. Hello, Prosecutor is about a girl who is exploring a career as a prosecutor.
The new guidelines are another move by the Chinese government to tighten censorship over the entertainment industry, particularly in a year that is filled with sensitive anniversaries for the party. In the film industry, at least half a dozen Chinese productions have been pulled off screens at the last minute, with some of those films depicting the Nationalist party’s contribution in the war against Japan in the 1930s, for example.
And while the 86 shows are merely “recommended,” broadcasters are expected to follow the rules or they are likely to be singled out by state media if they don’t toe the line. Even The Story of Yanxi Palace, one of the most successful TV dramas in the Chinese-speaking world in recent years, was pulled from screens earlier this year after a state-owned newspaper criticized the show for propagating luxurious lifestyles and encouraging imperial practices.
Last week, the head of the NRTA told the department’s propaganda unit that employees should “put great value on every word [of TV shows], stay politically alert every second, and test [themselves] everyday whether they are absolutely loyal to the party” when approving shows (link in Chinese).