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China TV stations told no spies or romance: report

May 06, 2011

“The Oriental” was among 40 dramas that SARFT recommended stations air in May, June and July. - AP Photo

BEIJING: Chinese authorities have told broadcasters not to air television dramas about crime, romance or espionage over the next three months and instead focus on patriotic programmes, state media reported Friday.

Authorities said stations should show “The Oriental”, a drama about the People's Republic of China's early days, to salute the 90th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party's founding on July 1, according to the Global Times.

Stations in Shanghai, Tianjin, and the eastern province of Zhejiang have since pulled a drama about spies and underground party members before the Communists took power in 1949, the party-linked newspaper said.

The order by the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (SARFT) came before the May 1 holiday and followed reports of similar instructions last month banning dramas involving time travel back to ancient dynasties.

Officials reportedly said time travel showed a lack of respect for history.

“The Oriental” was among 40 dramas that SARFT recommended stations air in May, June and July.

The report cited an unnamed Zhejiang Satellite TV employee as saying all channels would focus on stories related to the development of the Communist Party and the People's Liberation Army (PLA) over the next three months.

Officials at SARFT were not immediately available for comment when contacted by AFP. Senior SARFT official Wang Weiping confirmed the order to the Beijing News, saying broadcasters had been asked to air “several dozen excellent TV dramas”over the three-month period to celebrate the party's founding.

Despite efforts by broadcasters to update TV programming to attract a hipper, younger viewing audience, such orders underscore how reforming content remains a sensitive area in China.

Programmes are still heavy on patriotic agendas, with the ruling Communist Party long using the medium as a primary propaganda tool.

That approach has also helped accelerate a shift in younger Chinese viewing habits away from state-run broadcasters to online video websites, whose content is more varied and innovative, analysts say.