Tightening purse strings on broadcasting

By Han Bingbin ( China Daily ) Updated: 2014-09-18 07:55:25

Tightening purse strings on broadcasting

This year's CCTV Mid-Autumn Festival gala, filmed in Suzhou, Jiangsu province, kept a low profile in terms of lighting designs and the choice of artists. Photo provided to China Daily

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China Central Television has yet to announce the details of next year's Spring Festival gala, which is among the country's most anticipated annual events. The channel was expected to name a director for its cultural extravaganza in August, but that has been deferred without an explanation, leading some fans to believe that the gala could be scrapped.

Although CCTV has said that it will try to make "a better show" this year, to be broadcast in early 2015, there's a feeling in the TV viewing community that the channel, known for its financial muscle, might be struggling with planning the event on a modest budget, and hence the scheduling delay.

In the past few years, Chinese TV stations have made it a tradition to host galas during important festivals, with top-notch artists participating in them in the grandest of ways. But the splurge of public money on shows has come under central government scrutiny.

In 2013, the Publicity Department of the Communist Party of China Central Committee discouraged government officials from spending funds on lavish celebrations and paying exorbitant fees to celebrities for their appearances.

The industry regulator, the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television, also issued a notice last year urging frugal production of such galas, with a greater emphasis on content.

China News Service recently quoted an anonymous CCTV source as saying that the delay in announcing the schedule for the Spring Festival gala also had something to do with "playing down its scale".

Famous film director Zhang Yimou was rumored to be appointed as the show's main director this year, but now that looks unlikely. Although high-profile filmmaker Feng Xiaogang was the gala's chief director last year, CCTV had toned down the visual presentation by replacing fancier stage settings with rented LED screens, among other measures.

Provincial satellite channels made some compromises as well.

Leading broadcaster Hunan TV, for instance, has reduced the number of its gala shows surrounding events such as Chinese Valentine's Day to around three per year. The channel didn't have anything special for last year's Mid-Autumn Festival, which—apart from the Spring Festival—drives annual advertisement revenues for TV stations.

Hunan's much hyped comeback during this year's Mid-Autumn Festival carnival, however, wasn't greeted as well by fans owing to the subpar lineup of stars, consisting mainly of pop singers popularized by reality TV shows, and routine stage settings.

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