Popular Chinese Television Programs Meet Tiananmen Square Fate in 2012

By: Barbara J. Ross

Censorship in China is increasing despite a hungry public savoring for freedom of speech.  This week China’s government under the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television took measures to drastically reduce programming which they deemed as promoting “excessive entertainment and vulgar tendencies.”  The parallel of the broadcasting toll to the human toll taken in the massacre event of 1989 is noted.  Both events effectively stopped public opinion and information, be it serious political dissent or light entertainment, from reaching the mainstream public.

One primary target of the 2012 censorship was a wildly popular reality program If You Are the One.  Much to the chagrin of the government, this program garnered  record ratings in 2010 as over 50 million people were viewing the dating show on prime time.  Now the State Administration has required 34 Chinese satellite television stations to air “no more than two, 90-minute entertainment” programs each per week. Whatever programming the television stations collectively work out, only ten such programs are permitted to be broadcast nationwide per week. In addition, this mandate requires 2 hours of state-approved news per day.  All of these orders went into effect on January 1 of this year.

This action is said by some to mirror the spirit of quelling public demand for democracy and information during the Tiananmen  Square event.  There, public protestors occupied the square for seven weeks in demonstration for democratic reform after the death of former party leader Hu Yaobang.  Millions of ordinary Chinese citizens joined the movement as a call for democracy was sent out. Hundreds were shot dead by the Chinese Army to in their attempt to crush the democratic protest.

While the death of television programming is by no means equal to the death of human protestors, the event provides evidence that the control of the Chinese government has not moved toward democracy. According to Want China Times, a government spokesman said the channels will begin to air programs that promote traditional virtues and the socialist value system.  This sets forth a government view, rather than allowing views of the general public to be aired.

The government is also targeting the internet, specifically microblogs or weibos, which many Chinese use as a forum to send information to one another.  The Xinhua (China’s State News Agency) reported that Zhou Yongkang, the public security chief, was urging authorities “to solve problems regarding social integrity, morality and Internet management” with “the early introduction of laws and regulations on the management of the Internet.”  One report from the annual meeting of the Communist Party’s Central Committee  detailed an “Internet management system” which is to subject offenders who spread unapproved and harmful information to punishment.

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