China: Reality shows forbidden

No one would forget how popular Super Girl was on 2005. As a talent-search reality competition, it created a miracle both in economy and culture impact. Besides over 400 millions viewers watching the final episode, varied fans clubs founded across China and a revenue of 9 figures high in total, it was even extolled to the height of Democratic Expression because the winner was voted by short messages from viewers. Following this hallmark, more than 200 reality shows then emerged.

Super Girls

But on the 21st of September, State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (SARFT), the head of all TV stations, gave such programs a blitz. It promulgated a strict rule aiming at regulating reality shows, criticizing some of them as so vulgar that they hurt the reputation of media. From the 3 main points of the decree, those who are familiar with Chinese TV ecosystem would find deeper relish. The decree itself also came to be a controversy in an unusual way.

Part 1; reality shows will be expelled out of golden time (19:30 to 22:30)


After 1st, October, 2007, from 19:30 to 22:30, no satellite television stations of provincial level or superior should hold such selective shows (talen-search competitions) that have multitude participation.

Actually, because of fund limitation, the hot shows were mainly organized by provincial TV stations. Therefore, the rule substantially sweeps such shows out of screen during golden time.

Part 2; strict and detailed control on duration; also, no live show is allowed.


For any TV station, such shows should not be broadcasted more than once every year, with the duration being no more than two months, content being less than ten episodes, and each episode being shorter than 90 mins. No live show should be allowed except the final episode, while it has to keep a delay of at least 1 minute.

Part 3; finally, a constraint on content aiming to resist the vulgarity.


Emcee lines as well as judges’ critiques, contestants’ or fans’ short speeches, and introductions should be cut back a lot, with a total duration being no longer than 20% of the whole program. In singing competition, domestic songs should take up more than 75% of all.


Don't make any stunt or purposively express seditious or sensational words; don't bruit rumors about contestants.


Hosts should not flatter, flirt with or dig at each other.

Just before the decree was announced, the administration had halted a program of Chongqing TV station called The First Heart Temptation (第一次心动), for the cause named Ring-gate Case. On one episode of the live show, two judges furiously condemned each other because of a stunt by a constant. The situation was out of control then, which was seriously criticized by administration as a trick, vulgar and shameless, of capturing eyeballs.

This series of actions clearly demonstrates central administration’s disapproval of such shows. It has now turned into a practical regulation. To this relentless restraints and narrow rules, again, netizens expressed their opinions;

Some people doubted its validity. The following anonymous comments are from, signed by their locations:


This really made me dumbfounded. I think it would seem right only if we are not allowed to get on internet.


Changsha, Hunan
Governmental actions!!! Government just did what they fancy.
I think this kind of talent-search show is quite good. It must have affected ratings of China central television and therefore they made such a regulation.
When could mass media really be mass???

However, except for a paucity of objections like above, this time, most of netizens came to stand with government. They demonstrate their strong support.


Kunming, Yunnan
I very much appreciate the uncompromising measures taken by states administration. In order to pander to some people’s lower taste, a few entertainment programs have long been terribly shoddy


Qingdao, Shandong
Strongly support it!!!! Resolutely stand with it!!!
Such vulgar and baneful stuff should have been eradicated long before!!!!
Look what children have now become!!!
Look how meretricious our community has now been!!!

In a poll on, more than 86% people approve of the measure. Rengjian Zhendao in Netease has a typical critique that shows voices of many people:


The administration has finally done something good to public! That's wonderful!
Yang'er won't show up again, Lotus Sister will be gone! Those tomboys vanish.
Mean stuff that misdirect young people to drop study and indulge them in pipe dreams of overnight fame will be less!! Those that drive a sane person mad will be less either!
(Annotation: Yang'er is the judge in a talent-search show, Lotus Sister will be introduced below, tomboys are allusions to Super Girl)

To understand this grumble you might have to know the landscape of Chinese television. Many people condemn the increasing entertainments programs are getting more and more low-quality, glutted by blatant and pretentious people. The Lotus Sister might be the most famous one. She is a “celebrity” famous for her coquettish postures with body curved in S shape and irredeemable self-love, though her boorish visage shocks everyone that see her pictures. Though audience tagged her “nauseating” and “disgusting”, she still frequently appears on screen since TV stations use her as a stunt.

Some people furthermore comment that certain televisions and talent-search shows have nothing but gaudy sensationalization:

节目制作者一切向“钱”看,只要能赚钱,想方设法制造噱头,同性恋、选手堕胎、家庭丑闻,不少节目越来越低俗。齐鲁晚报  张莹

Programmers did everything for money and only for money. They tried all methods to make stunts, such as homosexual, contestants’ abortion, and family scandals, which make the shows more vulgar.

By Qi Ru Evening Post Zhang Ying

Cheng Yunfa (陈云发) criticized some shows as “pollution”:


Some TV stations disregarded public interest and hunted for money on self-seeking.…… They polluted our society's spirit. They have only themselves to blame.

These programs’ misguidance of youngsters is another public focus. A student in secondary school spent 200 thousand Yuan to join in Super Girl. A boy in Guang Xi stole money to send short message voting for his idol, and even committed robbery for this crazy cause.

Liu Haoping (刘浩平) appealed in United Morning Post:


Is the temptation created by TV media to find talents or to misguide youngsters? Where do they lead young people to? TV media should certainly be blamed on as creating such a fanatic morbide phenomenon in society.

fanatic fans

Obviously, TV stations and talent-search shows have been targets of public criticism. That is why public choose to stand firmly with government on this issue. Under the surge of protests and official interdictionthe, the vulgar shows are likely to retreat . However, we still need more thinking on interminable problems facing Chinese mass media:

Why do talent-shows finally have to become farces and stunts? How should we treat them; do we simply need a relentless interdiction? Can we make high-quality and charming reality shows again? Or are we really going to amuse ourselves to death?


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