Against the Hong Kong-Taiwan Style

This is what happens when you give a group of people of lot of power over others, you give them plenty of resources, you don't spell out what their mission is, you don't give them any rules and regulations and you don't hold them accountable.  [No, I don't mean the military police at Abu Ghraib.]  The most optimistic scenario is that they don't do too much damage beyond annoying people, but it could be a lot worse.

(ChineseNewsNet) (Tranlated from Chinese)

The fact that the Chinese State Administration of Radio, Film and TV have banned the "Hong Kong-Taiwan (港台腔)"-style of broadcast hosts has caused some discontent among some southern Chinese television workers.  Recently, a certain "Alliance of Television Lovers" appeared on the Internet and, in a parody of the tone of the State Administration of Radio, Film and TV, demanded a boycott of the "Northeastern (东北腔)"-style and the "Beijing (北京腔)"-style to make fun of the Chinese authorities.

The Bureau of Broadcasting and Telecommunications has recently been running a strong and multi-pronged campaign that even specifies the hairstyle and dress code of television hosts, emphasing: "Do not seek to be fashionable ... and imitate the expressions and pronunciations of Hong Kong and Taiwan announcers."  The target was obviously the tendency of the mainland entertainment hosts on radio and television employing the Hong Kong-Taiwan style.

These regulations were criticised immediately.  The "Alliance of Television Lovers" imitated the tone of the State Administration of Radio, Film and TV to call a boycott of the "Northeastern (东北腔)"-style and the "Beijing (北京腔)"-style.  They sarcastically pointed out: "This style (Northeastern or Beijing) is easily imitated by younger people, and is therefore deleterious to the popularization of putonghua (note: common spoken Chinese).  Furthermore, it is profoundly disrespectful of the asthetic values of Southern viewers as well as the local characteristics here."

The "Alliance" also urged people to unite together in order to ensure that "one hundred schools of thoughts will contend and one hundred flowers will bloom" on the television screen!

Actually, on CCTV, some people, especially news announcers such as Bei Yansong (白岩松), have northeastern accent, so it is clear whom those Internet posts were referring to.

At a deeper level, quite a few people believe that the Central Propaganda Department's "purification project" is running in the opposite direction as the the basic national reform plan.  Some Chinese netizens point out the State Administration of Radio, Film and TV has been issuing a series of bans in the name of "protection of the youth" and this has the effect of creating a structural space for those formulaic, unoriginal and low-quality national productions.

Other displeased Chinese netizens have argued along other lines.  One of the famous literary works in China, The Water Margin 《水浒传》,, contains a lot of violence and fighting among gangsters.  So will the authorities classify The Water Margin as having a "serious impact on the healthy development of young people"?  They also point out that another of the four most famous Chinese novels, The Dream Of The Red Chamber 《红楼梦》, conains a lot of love scenes as well as consipicuous consumption behaviors.  So will the authorities classify The Dream Of The Red Chamber as "fostering materialistics desire and inappropriate emotions among young people"?  These angry netizens believe that the authorities should be going after those formulaic programs.  Although Chinese people are "unable to watch many of the fine television productions from abroad" and "there are so many national productions that are absolutely pitifiul," the people will "use their determined fighting spirit" (from a quotation of Mao Zedong) to "refuse to watch national tv drama and let the video pirates make enormous profits instead."

Some Chinese television industry workers said, "We cannot let the television set become an educational textbook.  We cannot let the leaders of the State Administration of Radio, Film and TV use their power to push their own aesthetic system."  They also added, "We would rather not watch the entertainment programs -- we would rather not watch those very proper so-called 'entertainment' programs."  As the Chinese leadership is pushing "developing and consolidating young people's thoughts," this proclamation from the "Alliance of Television Lovers" say: "The Alliance of Television Lovers are like all thoughtful people.  We all want to create a good environment for young people.  But we believe that we must get into the world of young people and understand them, and then we can understand the problem about their education.  Then and only then can we 'develop and consolidate young people's thoughts.'  We are also adapting and we will never let the young people get to resent us."

(The Guardian)  China orders TV stars to stop 'queer' western behaviour, by Jonathan Watts.  May 15, 2004.

Chinese television presenters have been told to stop dyeing their hair, exposing too much flesh and using English words in a government campaign to shelter young Chinese minds from the pernicious influences of sex, violence and foreign ideas.  

The policy, which also includes a ban on imports of overseas crime shows and "queer dressing", has caused widespread controversy.  Many believe it goes against a popular social trend towards greater individual freedoms and wider exposure to international fashion and culture.

Mainland Chinese television remains remarkably staid compared with the wild, wacky and often sexually explicit fare served up in Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong. Although there are dozens of terrestrial channels, they are all run by the state or provincial government.

For years this has resulted in bland programme schedules largely filled with historical dramas, folk music performances, military displays and heavily censored news shows.

But in recent years broadcasters have become more dependant on commercial revenues and more aware of the competition posed by the industrial-scale pirating and distribution of foreign films and television programmes.

Increasingly forced to balance their communist owners' propaganda needs with the demands of their audiences, many have been pushing at the regulatory boundaries to produce livelier programmes.

Broadcasters - particularly those catering to the rising urban middle-classes in Shanghai, Beijing and Guangzhou - have increased imports of Japanese dramas, American westerns, English premier league football and Spanish bullfighting. Locally made programmes are even becoming slightly more risqué.

Although the news presenters on the national CCTV channel are as starchily dressed and coiffured as ever, the hosts of entertainment shows have been dyeing their hair, showing a little skin and spicing up their Mandarin with trendy words and phrases from English and Cantonese. This has proved popular with urban audiences, who are familiar with the words "cool", "darling" and "Sars".

Many admit they do not even know the official Mandarin word for DVD or CD. The mixing up of languages is also increasing, with words such as "interwang", which means internet, in common parlance. At the same time, necklines are falling and hemlines rising.

Some of the more daring fashions have sparked controversy. Zhang Yue, a famous CCTV host, was publicly castigated for wearing a silk scarf that appeared to look like the Japanese national flag.

Another television celebrity has come under the spotlight for being a notoriously poor Mandarin speaker: for the former CCTV host Liu Yiwei, it has always been his trademark but how he is said to be taking language lessons.

The elderly communist leaders are clearly not amused. After recent moves to crack down on the internet and computer games, the State Administration of Radio, Film and TV has issued the new broadcasting regulations in the name of protecting juveniles from unhealthy influences.

"The rule intends to reduce the negative impact of queer dressing and behaviour on youngsters," Xu Caihua, an official at the Shanghai Administration of Culture, Radio, Film and Television, told local reporters.  Along with the restrictions on language, dress and behaviour, the guidelines also ban imported programmes promoting "western ideology and politics".

According to the Shanghai Daily, presenters and programme makers at the local television station were called in for a special meeting yesterday to study the new rules.

The regulations have prompted an unusual amount of public opposition.  An article in the Southern Metropolitan Daily, from one of the most liberal areas of China, accused the authorities of interference. "When people are in the mood to watch entertainment programmes, they are not going to be worried that the host's accent will stir up social crisis or damage public morality," it said.

Even the more conservative China Daily acknowledged that the policy risked causing controversy at a time when individualism was on the rise. But as a loyal government-run organ, the paper duly defended the campaign as a form of protection for young people.

"The country will not be returned to the time when the whole population, young and old, men and women, were dressed in uniform Mao suits, limited to either blue, green or grey," it said. "But at the same time, presenters should never forget their social obligations as role models to millions of young viewers."

Here is a different question.  Do you think that Chinese youth ought to be protected from this sort of thing?


Asia's first radio station dedicated to women's rights, FM105.7 "Sister Radio," expressed dismay yesterday over being punished by the Government Information Office for a segment that mimicked the sounds lesbians from different countries make while having sex.

The GIO fined the station NT$9,000 on the grounds of "harming public order or proper customs."  But the secretary-general of the Taiwan Gender and Sexual Rights Association, Wang Pin, asked why the GIO didn't punish the 1989 movie "When Harry Met Sally," in which Meg Ryan fakes an orgasm in a restaurant to embarrass the man sitting with her?

Or do you think the following program is satisfying legitimate consumer demand?


Chinese television censors have axed a controversial new weather programme after
the scantily clad hostess's flirty performances aroused nationwide debate over the limits of tasteful entertainment.

"Star weather" featured former beauty pageant winner Wu Rong in the role of a bombshell meteorologist, flaunting her curvy figure while cooing fashion and beauty tips loosely based on the next day's forecast.

Hunan Entertainment Channel launched the nightly five-minute programme on May 26 in the southern province, known as a hotbed of cutthroat competition and adventurous programming in China's increasingly commercial but still tightly regulated market.

The report, as thin on meteorology as Wu's skimpy outfits, titillated many viewers bored with robotic weathermen. But its racy format drew a backlash from more traditional audiences and national media attention.

Hunan television officials suspended it two weeks ago.  "There was pressure from above," Liu Bin, the channel's editorial director, told Reuters. "It was planned to be a life, trends and services programme. But it resulted in various interpretations among the audience."