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China: Shanzhai Spring Festival Blocked

In the evening of 25 of January 2009, most Chinese people in mainland China were at home, enjoying the year end dinner while waiting for the Lunar New Year. A usual entertainment for the night among family members was to watch the Spring Festival Gala broadcasted by CCTV. This year, they could have an alternative, however…

A netizen, Lao Meng planned to organize an alternative Spring Festival Gala online, called Shanzhai Spring Gala 山寨春晚 (The meaning of Shanzhai is home-based factory or mountain village), in November 2008. He openly called for participation and had successfully recruited 35 performances. The Gala was scheduled to broadcast online via video hosting websites, Tecent and UUSee, in the evening of 25 of January. However, in early January, the State Administration of Radio Film and Television (SARFT) issued a notice demanding all the media stop reporting on the Shanzhai Gala. Moreover, due to some unknown reasons, the venue booking on that night was canceled and Lao Meng had to record the performances and turn the “public performance” into gathering and celebration among friends.

Lao Meng and his friends had finished recording their performance on 22 of January. However, they failed to upload the video, if the clips are tagged as “Shanzhai Spring Gala”. Even if they don't tag the clips, the uploading would be intercepted in the middle of the data transmission. On 2 of February journalist from Beijing News reported that he failed to find any video clip concerning Shanzhai Spring Gala on 56 major online video hosting websites in China. Lao Meng speculated that the performance was blocked by the government under the pretext of anti-Smut campaign.

Which sectors are to responsible for this blocking? Gowers points out:

可是,为什么视频网站没播呢?没办法,谁让视频网站有着广电总局、文化部这样的BOSS呢?视听许可证是广电总局发的,那是托关系、找人,费了九牛二虎之力才混到的。所以,广电告诉你“不参与、不炒作‘山寨’”,谁敢播?加上近期文化部等又在搞反低俗,要是因为播个山寨春晚就被弄成了低俗,也不值得。

Why Video websites can't put the Gala on show? Unfortunately, their bosses are SARFT and the culture bureau. The license of broadcasting comes from SARFT, and all these companies have to find relation to get the license. So when the SARFT told them not to “participate and make popular” Shanzhai, who dare to broadcast it? Moreover, recently the cultural bureau are having their anti-Smut campaign, if they are labeled as vulgar websites for showing Shanzhai gala, it costs them too much.

The Shanzhai Spring festival Gala's slogan is “Spring Festival Gala for the people, by the people”, and the performances were designed for rural migrant workers, students and Diasporas who fail to return home for family gatherings. It is very likely that the CCTV and propaganda department see it as a challenge to their status.

In 163.com, there are more than 200 comments on the blocking of Shanzhai Gala, most of them criticize CCTV's monopoly status. Below are some selected comments:

这分明是个阴谋,偶年三十搜山寨春晚,有关链接全部连不上
cctv真缺德,没本事真刀真枪的干,只能玩阴的
结果今年的春晚办的果然不负众望,还是那么烂!

This is a plot, I searched for Shanzhai Spring festival gala at the night of year end, all links are inaccessible. CCTV is so immoral, it doesn't have the guts to confront with competitor and plays trick under the table. In the end, the CCTV gala is as expected, sucks!

央视真可怜,一个山寨给吓成这样.

CCTV is so poor, so easily intimidated by a Shanzhai.

连一个小小的山寨春晚都无法容忍,更何况别的!中国!终国!

If a country cannot tolerate an online program like Shanzhai Spring festival gala, this country is near its end.

很央视…很中国…..

Very CCTV, very China

You can access the Shanzhai Spring Festival Gala in youtube(however, it is difficult to distinguish which are the genuine Lao Meng production as many use the Shanzhai tag to increase the video’s popularity). For mainland Chinese, they can access via Proxy and TOR. Here is a production by mainland Chinese students at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, using the Shanzhai in their title:

More information from DANWEI and hollywoodreporter.

This article is cross-posted in Globalvoices Advocacy with slight changes.

2 comments

  • fighter

    it is really common and often seen in China. And we ordinary never have the chance to voice our opinions becauese of the fierce control of the government. the signal of chinese broadcasting of voice of america is usually disturbed and it is really hard to know the truth of what have happened around us. The official TV reports are always positive, but even children know it is not the case.

  • […] a netizen, Lao Meng, decided to hold a Shanzhai Spring Festival Gala online. However, because of unknown pressure, the venue booking for the event was cancelled and the State Administration of Radio Film and […]

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