China Issues Strict Rules to Regulate TV Shows

Mass audience voting for American Idol-style talent shows has been banned, and the shows have been pushed out of prime time

China has issued strict new rules for TV talent shows, banning "American Idol"-style mass audience voting by mobile phone text message or Internet and bumping the programs out of prime time.

The lengthy 1 1/2-page order, posted on the web site of the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television, or SARFT, rounds out authorities recent crackdown on the hugely popular TV show format.

Analysts say Chinese authorities fear the show's mass popularity and its influence on society.

The move also comes amid a tightening of media controls ahead of next month's Communist Party congress, a once-every-five-year meeting to appoint senior leaders and set major policies.

The order, dated Friday, acknowledges the value of TV talent shows, which proliferated after the success of the Hunan Satellite show "Super Girls 2005," but also issues stringent requirements for the timing, programming and judging of such shows.

"Super Girls 2005," China's equivalent of "American Idol," shattered ratings records, according to state media, with more than 400 million viewers tuning in to its finale, and several million voting by mobile phone text messages.

But SARFT added that some shows suffered from "problems of cheap tone, betraying the fundamental position of being positive, healthy and striving for improvement, damaging the image of TV broadcasting."

The government order came after China recently banned the TV talent show "The First Time I Was Touched," apparently over the trivial nature of bizarre gift-giving stunts staged by a contestant. Officials have also banned TV shows about cosmetic surgery and sex changes, as well as radio shows that discussed sex and drugs.

SARFT said in its new order that it wants "scientific judging standards" and will ban voting by mobile phone and Internet, with voting only to take place among live audiences.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.