China Tightens Limits on Imported Shows on TV

BEIJING (AP) — China’s television broadcasters will be limited in the number of imported series they can show, the government has announced, as China continues to try to rein in foreign influence.

Under the new rules, no foreign TV series may be shown during the prime-time hours of 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. and overseas-produced shows “could take up no more than 25 percent of total programming time each day,” the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television said late Monday.

CCTV Tower in Beijing (jiazi/flickr)

It also said domestic channels would not be allowed to show too much programming from any one country or region, but did not elaborate.

The move comes in a politically sensitive year for China, with a planned change of leadership, and after President Hu Jintao said the Communist Party needed to get a firmer grip on Chinese culture.

In early January, Hu told Communist Party members that hostile forces abroad were trying to westernize and divide the country with their cultural influence and that officials must remain vigilant against such efforts.

Hu did not say who the hostile forces were, but Chinese leaders have tried to bolster their legitimacy with a more demanding public by depicting China as being engaged in an ideological and cultural war with the West.

Hu’s remarks are part of the Communist Party’s broader push to reinforce socialist principles in an attempt to counter calls by liberal Chinese for “universal values” such as freedom of expression, which state media often portray as Western concepts unsuited to China’s unique circumstances.

Chinese leaders are under pressure from a public that is upset over income inequality, corruption and other ills of rapid growth and that feels empowered by rising prosperity and social media to criticize the government.

To compete for ideological influence, party leaders have said China must create more cultural products such as books, films and art to attract Chinese and foreign audiences. As part of efforts to wrest back Communist Party control over cultural industries, China also recently said it would limit reality TV shows and other light fare shown on satellite television stations.

Hu is expected to step down as party leader later this year at a once-every-five-years party congress.

Image credit: flickr/jiazi