This is a translation of an interview published on 26 October on the Xinhua website.
Interviewing the authorities
Letting television screens become even more rich, varied, healthy and upward
SARFT news spokesperson answers Xinhua journalists’ questions concerning the “Opinion Concerning Further Strengthening Comprehensive Satellite Television Channel Programme Management”
Xinhua Online, Beijing, 26 October (Journalist Bai Ying).
Today, SARFT issued the “”Opinion Concerning Further Strengthening Comprehensive Satellite Television Channel Programme Management”, putting forward that from 1 January 2012, 34 comprehensive satellite television channels must raise the broadcast amount of news-type programmes, and at the same time implement controls over the broadcast of a part of programme categories, in order to prevent excessive entertainmentization and vulgar tendencies, satisfy the broad audiences’ diverse and multi-level high-grade viewing requirements. The SARFT news spokesperson has accepted a special interview by Xinhua journalists concerning the “Opinion”
The strong reaction of audiences against excessive entertainmentization of television programmes
Q: Recently, SARFT issued the “Opinion Concerning Further Strengthening Comprehensive Satellite Television Channel Programme Management”, is this the “Entertainment Limiting Order” as it is said online?
A: Calling the “Opinion Concerning Further Strengthening Comprehensive Satellite Television Channel Programme Management” an “Entertainment Limiting Order” is incorrect, SARFT always encourages the organization of positive and healthy entertainment programmes. Simply using the words “limiting entertainment” can easily cause people to misunderstand. The Opinion is a complete set of management steps mainly aimed at a part of satellite television channel programmes that tend to be excessively entertainmentized, lower and vulgar, and duplicate each other’s style to which audiences at present strongly react, it includes clarifying many aspects, such as the position of comprehensive satellite television channels, strengthening news-type programme broadcast amounts, improving programme category structures, establishing comprehensive scientific appraisal systems, implementing programme broadcast and filing management systems, strengthening the duties of broadcast and management departments, strengthening sector self-regulation and social supervision, etc., it is a document that completely standardizes comprehensive satellite television channel broadcast management, its objective is to make television screens even more healthy and upward, rich and varied and even better satisfying the broad audiences’ diverse and multi-level high-level viewing requirements.
Q: Please say a bit about the drafting process of the “Opinion”?
A: In the last two years, the broad audiences’ voices concerning strengthening comprehensive satellite television channel programme management have been very loud. Before drafting the document, we have broadly heard the opinions from all sides, and conducted deep investigation and research concerning comprehensive satellite television channel programmes, concretely analyzed the present comprehensive satellite television channel programme broadcast situation, especially conducted statistical analysis of the content, timing and duration of news-type programmes and relatively strong entertainment-type programmes. During the drafting process, we have convened symposia several times to solicit the opinions of local Radio and Television Bureaus and television stations. At the same time, we have also obtained the opinions from representatives of the masses, people from the sector and expert scholars through special investigation and research, specific exchanges, collecting online reactions, etc. Through repeated discussion taking half a year’s time, ten relatively large adjustments and revisions, and on the basis of broad hearing and taking in opinions from all sides, the draft of this document was completed.
Enlarging the proportion of news-type programmes reflects the social situation and popular will
Q: How can we understand the position of comprehensive satellite television channels?
A: The “Opinion” reiterates that comprehensive satellite television channels are comprehensive channels with news propagation in first place; local comprehensive satellite television channels’ main duty is to revolve around the centre, serve the larger picture, propagate local achievements, displaying regional characteristics, reflecting the social situation and the popular will, guiding hot social issues and disseminate mainstream values.
Q: According to the “Opinion”, comprehensive satellite television channels’ programmes will be expanded in which aspects?
A: The “Opinion” requires that all comprehensive satellite television channels must expand news-type programme broadcast proportions, all comprehensive satellite television channels’ news-type programmes between 6:00 and 24:00 every day may not be less than two hours; from 18:00-20:30, they must have two or more self-made news-type programmes, the duration of each news programme may not be less than 30 minutes. At the same time, comprehensive satellite television channels are required to adapt to the popular masses’ multi-level and many-faceted spiritual cultural requirements at the same time a organizing news-type programmes; enlarge the proportion of programmes on economics, culture, science and ethnology, for children, documentaries, etc; strengthen propaganda and education functions, improve programme category structures, strive to raise programme quality. Every comprehensive satellite television channel must also organize at least one ideology and ethics construction column carrying forward traditional virtues of the Chinese nation and the core Socialist value system; from 1 September, all comprehensive satellite channels already successively rolled out corresponding columns.
According to statistics, at present, of 34 comprehensive satellite television channels, there are only 15 of which the news-type programme length reaches two hours (12 minutes) or more, a proportion of 44%; there are 23 of which the daily self-made news-type programme amount during the golden hours (18:00 – 23:30) reaches two or more, a proportion of 68%. After the implementation of the “Opinion”, nearly half of the comprehensive satellite television channels will increase news-type programme broadcast amounts, the broad audiences will be able to even more timely and fully acquire even better news information.
Total amount control over excessive and overflowing programmes duplicating styles guides aesthetic tastes
Q: Why must control be imposed over a number of programme categories?
A: According to statistical analysis by the SARFT Listening and Viewing Centre, at present, the total amount of programmes with a relatively strong entertainment nature broadcast by 34 national comprehensive satellite television channels in the golden hours (19:30-22:00) is 126 programmes per week, mainly including love, marriage and friend-making type, talent competition show-type, emotional story-type, game competition-type, comprehensive entertainment-type, interview and talk shows, etc. On average, every comprehensive satellite television channel broadcasts 3.7 programmes of this type every week， on average, national comprehensive satellite television channels in total have 18 of these types of programmes that are broadcast at the same time. Amongst those, there are 9 channels that have 7 programmes or more per week, making up 26% of the total satellite channel number; there are 8 channels that have 3 to 6 programmes per week, making up 24% of the total satellite channel number; there are 17 channels that have 2 or fewer programmes per week, making up 50% of the total satellite channel number. Many spectators have strong reservations against this. First, programme form duplication creates waste of television resources. Radio and television should satisfy the popular masses’ multi-level and diversified spiritual cultural requirements, similar types of programmes, and especially programmes with a relatively strong entertainment nature excessively influence the viewing choice space of the broad audiences. Second, it is not beneficial to programme innovation. A number of channels do not earnestly develop new programme formats, but indiscriminately imitate programmes created abroad or by other channels, leading to many programmes being made roughly and badly, with some good and some bad, which has shaped a vicious circle of one station innovating, many stations imitating, and the audience getting fed up, which has damaged the vigour of original television programme creators. Third, a number of programmes, for the sake of winning attention among similar types of programmes, don’t hesitate to reduce programme style, hankering after disseminating anecdotes about sex scandals, and even fabricating stories or passing themselves off as parties; some programmes disseminate erroneous value systems and moral concepts, show off wealth and worship money, ridicule and make fools of weak groups or low-income groups; some programmes have created harmful influences by revealing buffoonery, pathological provocation of audiences, wanton evildoing, etc. Strengthening management is precisely a question of avoiding me-tooism and plagiarism of similar programmes, excessively large amounts and low quality, at the same time innovation and excellence are encouraged, providing programme services for the masses that are even more diversified.
Q: Which control steps does the “Opinion” have against some programmes with similar formats, of which there are excessively many?
A: The “Opinion” requires that total broadcast amount control is implemented over programme categories such as love, marriage and friend-making type, talent competition show-type, emotional story-type, game competition-type, comprehensive entertainment-type, interview and talk shows, etc. Every evening from 19:30 to 22:00, national comprehensive satellite television channel total broadcast amount of the above programme categories is limited to 9 programmes or less, every comprehensive satellite television channel’s weekly broadcast amount of the above programme categories may not exceed 2 programmes. Every comprehensive satellite television channel’s daily broadcast time of the above programmes between 19:30 and 22:00 may not exceed 90 minutes. SARFT also conducts control over programmes similar to these categories, to prevent excessive homogenization of programme categories. Television dramas broadcast by national comprehensive satellite television channels between 19:30 and 22:00 must strictly execute the requirements of SARFT documents related to further standardizing comprehensive satellite television channel television drama editing and broadcast management, persist in the principle of unifying ideology, artistry and enjoyability, carrying forward the right social tendencies, disseminating mainstream values, guiding aesthetic tastes, preventing the appearance of extreme entertainmentization and vulgar tendencies.
Excessive entertainmentization doesn’t simply refer to programme category but is a creation tendency
Q: How is excessive entertainmentization of television programmes defined?
A: The problem of excessive television programme entertainmentization isn’t simply referring to programme category, but is a question of programme creation trends. Because of that, it is impossible to understand preventing excessive entertainmentization simply as limiting entertainment programmes. Synthesizing the opinion from all sides, to see whether or not a television programme displays excessive entertainmentization trends, we can weigh the following four aspects.
First is the principle of function. Our country’s radio and television are mouthpiece tools for the Party and the people. Amongst the many functions that radio and television have, such as news propaganda, public opinion guidance, culture and education, social service and aesthetic entertainment, etc., propaganda and entertainment should be the main functions and be given first place. Although different programme formats lay some emphasis on their functioning, even entertainment programmes should also persist in bringing education, cognition and aesthetics into entertainment, achieving the objectives of educational guidance, pleasing body and mind, and moulding noble thoughts and feelings. Everything that pursues entertainment as the highest, overlooks thought connotations, excludes the pursuit of aesthetics, refuses to undertake social responsibilities and mainstream values, should be considered as excessive entertainmentization.
Second is the principle of elements. There are some television programmes which aren’t entertainment programme in terms of theme orientation or category differentiation, where during the process of programme creation, entertainment elements are excessively added, which results in the secondary superseding the primary and a flood of entertainment, diluting the original theme and drowning the programme’s rational spirit and the human feelings. For example, job recruitment programmes are service-type programmes that basically construct a platform for the masses to find a job and impart job-market experiences, but some in some programmes, job applicants’ talent and skill competitions, and presenters and guests’ clowning and wisecracking take up the majority of the programme time, causing their cognitive function and service function to be secondary. Situations like this should be considered as excessive entertainmentization.
Third is the principle of effect. To see whether or not a programme is excessively entertainmentized, one must look at its final dissemination effect, is it a vigorous theme and a healthy style, is it able to inspire minds, please the body and mind, or does it have attracting eyeballs and raising viewing rates as the main objective, does it pursue shallow-level emotional ranting and is it satisfied with quick arousal? For example, the basic idea of the emergence of contradiction and mediation-type programmes, is to resolve contradictions, but some programmes, however, hanker after revealing personal secrets and sex scandals, display dark mentalities and even intentionally provoke or intensify contradictions and conflicts for the sake of creating viewing points, the final effect is not to settle contradictions or lead people to do good, but is to satisfy the emotions of narrow voyeurism and gloating at other people’s misfortune of some people, misleading the people’s value system. This sort of programme should be considered as excessive entertainmentization.
Fourth is the principle of total amounts. At present, our country in total has 34 comprehensive satellite television channels, furthermore, there are a number of satellite channels for children, cartoons, foreign propaganda, ethnic minority languages, etc. Regardless of how many channels there are, looking from the point of view of the masses, in the end, it is only possible to watch through one television screen, and choose through one remote control. If every evening, during the golden hours, half the channels are broadcasting programmes with a strong entertainment nature such as player kill* selection shows, game revelries, family conflicts, etc., audiences will inevitably sense that entertainment is filling their eyes and television channels have become large stages. The problem of individual programmes being excessively entertainmentized is perhaps not very prominent, but when programmes with a relatively strong entertainment nature are excessively concentrated, the total amount can emerge as excessive entertainmentization tendencies, and must be controlled.
It should be considered that, in recent years, television programme format development has changed very rapidly, new programme categories have emerged one after another, and it is hard to completely, accurately and conclusively summarize all kinds of manifestations of excessive entertainmentization from definitions and concepts, it is difficult to limit excessively entertainmentized programme categories, it is difficult to accurately and perpetually delimit programme scopes that need to be controlled, it is only possible to firmly grasp them on the basis of principles, which requires that all levels’ administrative radio and television entities and broadcast organs, in the process of concrete implementation, must strive to raise their understanding capacity of the basic principles of the “Opinion” and spiritual substance, raise their analytic judgment capacity of diversifying television programmes, and on the basis of the reality of all localities and the new situation of development and change of radio and television programme, creatively do control and management work well.
Supporting, encouraging and protecting programme innovation and excellence
Q: In recent years, some television channels have imported relatively many foreign programme formats, which new regulations are there for this?
A: Studying and learning from foreign excellent television formats has a certain positive significance for our country’s radio and television in broadening horizons, renewing concepts, training teams and broadening markets. The “Opinion” puts forward that importing foreign television programme formats must abide by relevant laws and regulations, must be suited to the Chinese national circumstances, lower styles and vulgar content must be cut off, me-tooism, plagiarism and imitation of foreign or other stations’ programme categories must be prevented. The “Opinion” stipulates that all comprehensive satellite television channels importing foreign television programme formats must report to provincial-level administrative radio and television management entities for examination. All provincial-level administrative radio and television entities must conduct earnest examination on the background, programme model, programme content, etc., of foreign production organs, and report the situation of comprehensive satellite television channels importing and broadcasting foreign television programme formats in their jurisdiction to SARFT for filing. SARFT will synthesise and control imported television programme formats’ total amount, theme and content, category proportion, etc., and prevent concentration of importing programme formats from the same region, of the same country and with the same content.
Q: Which encouragement methods are there to support programme innovation aspects?
A: Innovation is the driver of incessant radio and television development, we persist in supporting, encouraging and protecting programme innovation and excellence. Me-tooism and plagiarism is an extremely large harm to programme innovation. This strengthening of comprehensive satellite channel programme management emphasizes programme category diversification, implements total amount control over programme format duplication, and excessive flood of programmes, to prevent excessive homogenization of programme categories, and is an important step in encouraging innovation, protecting creation, safeguarding brands and avoiding me-tooism.
According to the “Opinion”, SARFT annually will award ten large innovative and excellent columns and ten excellent columns, provincial-level and higher administrative radio and television entities and broadcasting organs may on the basis of their programme broadcast situation, grant awards to programmes having a guiding nature, example nature and innovation nature in aspects of orientation, content, style, form, etc., as well as producers and presenters.
Consistently opposing only talking about viewing rates
Q: Which new steps are taken to establish complete and scientific comprehensive appraisal system?
A: Programme appraisal systems mainly involve two aspects: viewing rate data investigation systems and internal comprehensive broadcasting organ appraisal systems. Since a certain period, the broad masses and the radio and television industry have put forward many opinions concerning the scientific nature, rationality and guiding nature of viewing rate data systems, and have even called it into question. SARFT is currently conducting deep investigation and experiments, to establish third-party supervision mechanisms through formulating viewing rate investigation service standards, exploring measures such as the establishment of new survey and statistics systems, etc. , to standardize viewing rate investigation work. We consistently oppose only talking about viewing rates. The “Opinion” clearly puts forward the “Three Don’ts”, meaning “don’t make programme viewing rate lists, don’t merely take viewing rates to make a last place elimination system, don’t merely weigh broadcasting organ and television programme quality on the basis of viewing rate lists.” The “Opinion” clearly requires that all radio and television broadcast organs must persist in putting social interest first, persist in the organic integration of social interest and economic interest, establish scientific, objective and fair comprehensive programme appraisal systems. Recently, CCTV has established a rather scientific programme appraisal system from many aspects such as guidance strength, influence, dissemination strength, specialization, etc, simultaneously dealing with social interest and economic interest, and avoiding the tendency of only looking at viewing rates, SARFT is currently popularizing this in the nationwide radio and television system. At present, SARFT is formulating the “Guiding Opinion Concerning Establishing Radio and Television Programme Comprehensive Appraisal System”, which will be promulgated in the near future, this action will promote the establishment of complete and comprehensive radio and television programme appraisal systems.
All levels’ administrative radio and television management entities must realistically implement supervision and management duties.
Q: Which steps are there to deal with television programmes violating regulations?
A: The “Opinion” clearly points out, it is necessary to strengthen all levels’ administrative radio, film and television management entities’ supervision and management responsibilities and broadcasting organs’ gatekeeping responsibilities. According to the principles of “who is in charge is responsible” and “tiered management”, all levels’ administrative radio and television management entities must realistically implement supervision and management responsibilities. In cases of problems appearing in programmes concerning aspects such as political orientation, value orientation, style and theme, etc., relevant administrative radio and television management entities and broadcasting organs must, with regard to its nature and gravity, impose measures such as criticism, ordering revision, warning, adjustment of broadcast time, up until cessation of broadcast, etc. All broadcasting organs must implement the three programme examinations system and strictly keep the programme gate. For comprehensive satellite television channel programme management, a broadcasting organ first-in-command responsibility system is implemented. It is necessary to further strengthen listening and watching organ construction, provincial-level administrative radio and television management entities must all establish special listening and watching organs, and allocate specialist personnel, and at regular times report the listening and watching supervision results, timely discover, timely warn, and timely redress.
Q: If the broad television audience have something to say about radio and television programmes, how can they express this, which reporting channels are there for social supervision opinions?
A: The “Opinion” requires, all levels’ administrative radio and television management organs must establish and announce complaint reporting telephones and letter boxes, to receive opinions from all walks of society concerning excessive entertainmentization and vulgar tendencies at all times, and timely deal with feedback. At present, SARFT has an audience complaints hotline at 010-86095315 and 010-86091111, and at the same time has also opened an audience complaints window on the official website, welcoming the broad audience to conduct supervision over radio and television programmes, and put forward criticism and opinions. The “Opinion” also puts forward, it is necessary to support radio and television sector organizations to establish “audience committees”, broadly listen to the opinions and suggestions for radio and television programmes from all walks of society, shaping effective social supervision mechanisms. SARFT will encourage and support the development of media discussion on the scientific rationality and health of radio and television programmes.
Q: When will the “Opinion” be implemented?
A: The Opinion takes effect from 1 January of next year. Before this, all levels’ administrative radio, film and television management entities and broadcasting organs must also make large preparation work, we hope all walks of life will grant support and supervision to the “Opinion” implementation work.
*type of computer game