On 12 December, SARFT passed a set of new controls over provincial-level dramas, the Provincial-Level Satellite Television Drama Broadcast Management Opinions (省级卫视电视剧播出管理意见). These Opinions stipulate that:
1: The proportion of modern-day television dramas broadcast by provincial satellite stations must be 40% or more;
2: Palace dramas are strictly controlled, historical dramas may not distort history
3: Under the decree limiting entertainment, television dramas may not be overly entertainmentized;
4: Police and gangster dramas are strictly managed as before, but describing police life can be considered as modern life themes;
5: The broadcast proportion of themes aimed at children, the countryside, ethnic minorities, etc, must be 15% by the year 2013.
With this, I have three questions:
This document is the latest one in a flurry of new controls over television, including limiting entertainment programmes and advertising in television dramas. Interestingly, these are mainly directed at the increasingly popular provincial satellite channels, which have become strong competition for CCTV. Is SARFT perhaps trying to adjust that balance?
A very worrying development is that SARFT has started to not publish these regulations. When the limits on entertainment programmes were announced, a SARFT spokesperson gave an interview to Xinhua, but the original document still cannot be found, for example, on the SARFT website. This television drama Opinion also cannot be found online. Is SARFT getting less transparent?
This document continues the concern about historical themes that we already saw in the document banning time travel. Throughout Chinese history, a display the past has been a way to subtly criticize the present. Presumably, the authorities are very attentive to such issues, and may read very different meanings into films, books or plays than the author may have wanted. One of the factors leading to the Cultural revolution was such a play. Is SARFT concerned about historical dramas destabilizing the Party-State?