A show reminiscent of American Idol has gained popularity in China. But now authorities are cracking down on it and other "vulgar" programming, and planning to replace them with more wholesome, government-approved fare.
According to the Telegraph, the show Super Girl, in which singers compete for a shot at fame, drew 400 million viewers for its most popular episode. But now its network plans to cancel it, replacing Super Girl with "shows that promote moral ethics and public safety, and provide practical information for housework." The Practical Ironing Hour does sound like a blast, but there are a number of possible political reasons for the decision. Many say pressure from China's State Administration of Film, Television and Radio (SARFT) caused the network to "voluntarily" cancel the show, but there's debate about why the pressure was applied.
Journalism professor Yin Hong says the government is taking a stand against "vulgarity": "SARFT has been planning a new attempt at cleaning up television for the past five months." Shows apparently deemed vulgar include a talk show in which a "son treated his father disrespectfully, at one point berating him and threatening to take him to court over money." But some say the decision is less about the content of the shows and more about the perception that TV has become too entertainment-focused — says communications professor Yuan Fang,
The government is trying to push back on excessive entertainment. They want to increase news programmes and will ask stations to broadcast an extra bulletin each evening. At the moment, whenever you turn on the television, there is only entertainment shows. This will be a long-term project.
While uproars over television content are common in the US, debates over its entertainment value are less so. Still, we've certainly heard American media critics complain that the public only wants to watch reality TV and doesn't care about hard news anymore. Cancelling Super Girl may be SARFT's attempt to head off such criticism, though it also may have political motivations: some say Chinese regulators didn't like the fact that the show depicted voting. However, there's a final and pretty amusing explanation for the cancellation: the show's finale this season overran its two-hour time slot. Maybe if the Oscars risked being replaced by shows about laundry, they'd finally run on schedule.