New Chinese Regulations for TV Series: Promoting Socialism, Avoiding Religion

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More control over TV shows and their actors means they must prove they have a “correct political orientation” and promote “socialist values”.

by Yuan Peizhi

Posters and DVD covers for popular Chinese TV drama series. From Weibo.

On April 26, 2022, the China Federation of Radio and Television Social Organizations and the China Network Audiovisual Program Service Association published the “Specifications for the Production and Operation of Television and Web Drama Teams”. As usual, a “test” version of new regulations is released, inviting comment, but the final version is never significantly different from what was released to start this pseudo-democratic process.

China produces more TV series and TV movies than any other country in the world, including the United States, and keeping this huge segment of popular culture under control is crucial for the CCP.

An interesting part of the regulations is that they attempt to apply Xi Jinping’s “common prosperity” principles and eliminate “unreasonably high compensation” for players. According to Article 19, “the total remuneration of all actors shall not exceed 40% of the total cost of production, of which the remuneration of the principal actors shall not exceed 70% of the total remuneration, and the remuneration of the other actors shall not must not be less than 30% of the total remuneration.Producers must also oppose “the unhealthy style of luxury and vanity” of certain actors, ensure that they “do not display wealth”, avoid extravagant expenses for their hotels and meals (Article 25).

While this is not unreasonable in these tough economic times, it is also a way to rein in celebrities who have been denounced by Xi Jinping himself as oddly independent of the Communist Party.

The heart of the provisions is that television series must follow a “correct political orientation” (Article 1). The objective of the television series is to “promote fundamental socialist values ​​and the spirit of patriotism” (Article 5). It is therefore necessary that the actors, directors and all other actors involved in the production and filming of the series have sufficient “political culture” (article 7).

As a precaution, very detailed provisions apply the principle that in China there is no real “independent” cinema. Plans for TV and web series and how those plans are implemented would have to go through a long list of approvals by censorship bodies and local Party authorities.

The regulations explain that while legal religions are not to be offended, TV and web series must “strictly abide by national ethnic and religious policies” (Article 20), which prohibit the promotion of religion, and resolutely “resist” the xie. jiao (ie religious movements) and illegal religion (article 5).

There really aren’t any TV series in China that we know of that promote Falun Gong and other groups labeled as xie jiao, but the regulations would certainly encourage producers and actors to avoid any references that can be interpreted as the promotion of religion or " superstition."

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