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The Hidden Rules of Chinese TV Series Censorship

Written by Abby Liu On 16 March 2014 @ 4:48 am | 4 Comments

In Arts & Culture, China, Chinese, Citizen Media, East Asia, English, Feature, Film, Freedom of Speech, Law, Media & Journalism, Weblog

“If anyone made ‘House of Cards [1]‘ in China, it would certainly be censored,” award-winning Chinese film actor and director Zhang Guoli [2] commented during the recent Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference [3] (CPPCC).

Chinese TV series have lost their appeal among young audiences due to their dull content and lack of creativity. With the rise of online channels, American and Korean TV series have gained great popularity among Chinese youth. Chinese film and TV directors often blame strict censorship for losing domestic viewers; it is obvious that the government restricts any content that is against socialism and promotes human rights, democracy and freedom.   

But what are the other regulations on TV content in China? A recent Chinese-language article [4] exploring a few hidden rules about television production in China has gone viral online. The article highlighted four rules restricting topics covered in series:  

1 主人公不能太花心,小三不能有幸福

法规解读:《电视剧内容管理规定》第五条第(九)条规定电视剧不得载有危害社会公德或者民族优秀文化传统的内容。虽然在现行的电视剧中依然不乏违背社会公序良俗的内容出现,例如“小三”,但此类人物通常会以反面教材做负面形象处理。

1. The main character can’t be too much of a playboy, and the mistress can’t have a happy life

The regulation reads: TV series shall not contain content that is harmful to social morality and Chinese cultural tradition. While current dramas do contain content that violates public order and morals of society such as the role of the mistress, such figures are usually portrayed in a negative light, serve as teaching material.

This explains why mistress characters end up being miserable.  

2 80后未婚生子情节一律绕道

法规解读:《电视剧内容管理规定》第五条第(十一)条规定电视剧不得载有违反现行法律、行政法规和规章禁止的内容。根据《中国人口与计划生育条例》,普遍情况下80后只能有一个孩子、有准生证才能生育孩子,私生子更是违反法律规定。

2: No children before marriage

The regulation reads: TV series don't allow content that violates existing laws, administrative regulations and rules. According to “China's Population and Family Planning Regulations”, those born after the 1980s are usually only allowed to have one child, and a birth certificate must be obtained in order to have a child. Illegitimate children are against the law.

According to the piece, a TV drama called “Fiancee” featured a main character having a child before marriage, but censors didn't approve it until that part of the storyline was changed.

3 拒绝鬼魂,“异能”人士只存在于儿童剧

法规解读:电视剧不得宣传邪教、迷信等….“外星人”之类的“异能”元素目前只存在于儿童剧中。

3:  Superpowers only exist in children's dramas

The regulation reads: TV dramas cannot promote cults and superstition. “Aliens” with superpowerscan only exist in children’s dramas.

 4 校园内不能有早恋,不能有暴力

法规解读:电视剧不得出现有害未成年人身心健康的内容;普遍社会舆论认为学生在校园里谈恋爱会耽误学业,因此电视剧中几乎是严禁表现中小学生早恋的情节,而校园暴力直接侵犯了未成年人的合法权益,更是表现的禁区。

4: No dating or violence at schools

The regulation reads: TV dramas cannot include content that’s harmful to the physical and mental health of minors. Widespread public opinion believes that dating on campus would affect their studies, so content related to dating at primary or middle school is not allowed. School violence is against the legitimate rights and interests of minors, and so it is forbidden.

How does the process work?

An infographic from Wangyi news [5] explains the process of China's TV series censorship. It starts with the self-censorship by the production companies themselves. Then they submit the name of the TV series and the story outline to the provincial Bureau of Radio and Television before getting the license to make the series.

An infographic about China's TV series censorship

An infographic about censorship of TV series in China. Image from Sina Weibo.

Once it’s finished, the final product will go through the provincial Bureau of Radio and Television again. To be able to be broadcast on TV, a certificate from the State Administration of Radio Film and Television is required.

Topics related to important issues such as historic events, state leaders and religion need special permission. Topics about wars after the Chinese revolution of 1949 is not allowed.

Who are the censors?

The censors are composed mainly of retired leaders from state media and university teachers. They get paid from 50 to 100 yuan per episode (about 8 to 16 US dollars). They are on random rotation.

A commentary piece from China's Sohu news called [6] for more relaxed censorship: 

按照现行的电视审查制度—国产电视剧不是“来源于生活”,而是远远把真实的生活撇在了身后。一者,审查是必要的。没有规矩,不成方圆。二者,过度审查是有害的。不仅扼杀创作能力与创意水平,也令市场走向僵化与畸形。尤其是在国际竞争中,“自我阉割”式的审查制度,令文化输出能力雪上加霜。

According to the current censorship system, Chinese TV series don't portray real life, but try to hide from real life. Censorship is necessary, but when it's too strict, it can be harmful. It kills creativity and lead to a rigid and distorted market. Self-censorship will certainly affect our cultural influence in international competitions. 


Article printed from Global Voices: http://globalvoicesonline.org

URL to article: http://globalvoicesonline.org/2014/03/16/the-hidden-rules-of-chinese-tv-series-censorship/

URLs in this post:

[1] House of Cards: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1856010/

[2] Zhang Guoli: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zhang_Guoli

[3] Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_People

[4] Chinese-language article: http://cul.sohu.com/20140314/n396612658.shtml

[5] Wangyi news: http://weibo.com/1974808274/AATW1yz2o

[6] called: http://star.news.sohu.com/20140315/n396635439.shtml

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