After banning time travel on TV, China's ruling Communist Party has now ordered state-run broadcasters to remove spy dramas from their schedules and begin airing approved revolutionary dramas to mark the Party's 90th anniversary.
Culture czars inside the Party, which celebrates the nine-decade anniversary of its founding on July 1, recently ordered satellite television stations in Zhejiang, Tianjin, Jiangsu, and other locations to stop broadcasting wartime spy and police dramas, official media reported.
"The State Administration of Radio, Film and Television has called on television stations to stop airing wartime spy drama, police drama, and costume dramas between mid-May and July," the ChinaNews website reported.
"They must broadcast revolutionary television dramas instead," the article said. The dramas have to be approved by the party's propaganda department.
Shows to be postponed until after the anniversary include satellite TV station Jiangsu Weishi's police drama "Never Close Your Eyes" and wartime spy drama "Blacklist," reports said.
China's high-ranking cultural officials have instead prepared a list of shows which the government wishes to promote, including a 90th anniversary gala television performance lauding the Party.
'Likely to comply'
Other shows on the list included the classic revolutionary drama "My youth is in Yan'an" and specially produced documentaries like "In July That Year" and "The Sons and Daughters of the Party."
While China's domestic television market has witnessed a commercial expansion over recent years, with broadcasters' revenue tied to viewing figures, experts say they still can't escape the directives of the Party's powerful central propaganda department.
According to retired Shandong University professor Sun Wenguang, all the television stations are likely to comply with the directive.
"July 1 is nearly upon us, and the propaganda department will decide which shows can be aired and which cannot," Sun said. "They must put out lots of propaganda about how great and mighty and correct the Party is."
"Yesterday evening I was watching a show called 'Follow the Party Forever,' which is the same sort of program," he said.
"This sort of stuff will probably make up most of the output throughout May and June."
Popular fare discouraged
Chinese local television stations have increasingly begun to make popular entertainment of their own, like the wildly popular Jiangsu satellite TV, one of the most widely watched in the country.
Jiangsu Weishi's dating show called "If You Are the One," for example, prompted many people last year to switch to the channel.
Along with Hunan Weishi's "Happy Camp" and the 2010 Spring Festival Gala, the show was the most watched entertainment program of 2010, according to media research group CSM.
However, cultural officials appear to disapprove of the newfound emphasis on light entertainment, ordering TV stations not to air any shows featuring time travel, for example, and urging them to serve up a more earnest schedule for their viewers.
New guidelines issued by the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television on March 31 discourage plotlines that contain elements of “fantasy, time travel, random compilations of mythical stories, bizarre plots [or] absurd techniques."
They also rule out stories that propagate feudal superstition or rely on fatalism and reincarnation, "ambiguous moral lessons, or a lack of positive thinking."
Reported by Qiao Long for RFA's Mandarin service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.