If you think The Voice is popular on NBC, you might be surprised how well the Chinese television version is: while 14 million US viewers watch the program on the Peacock network, an estimated 64 million Chinese viewers tune in to The Voice of China on state-run Chinese television.
And despite the success, therein lies the problem. At least, for said state-run television: if the best form of flattery is imitation, reality shows in China are getting a lot of flattery these days.
China’s Communist government is stepping in, frustrated by what they perceive as a growing number of television viewers who are themselves frustrated with so much reality television, CBS News reports. The State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television, a government agency, says that the 13 singing competition shows already on the air are more than enough, issuing an order that no more such singing competition shows will be allowed on China’s airwaves. (At least, presumably, until more of the current versions go away.) And speaking of going away, the government has already canceled four shows and three more are said to possibly be on the chopping block.
Over the last seven years, CBS News reports, the country’s censors have removed western shows from the prime time lineup and have criticized its own country’s shows for displaying “low taste” and “excessive entertainment”.
The new rule is that producers should avoid “extravagance, putting on dazzling packaging, and playing up sensational elements”.
I have absolutely no interest in shows like The Voice, The X-Factor and America’s Got Talent. (The last one is nearly a deal-breaker for me because of the non-grammatical title alone.) So you might think I’m amused by this decision in China that’s likely to get so many of these kinds of shows off the air.
I can’t help but think that our way is the better way. At least, to an extent.
In America, the people decide what stays on the air. Networks can dump millions of dollars into promoting a single show, but if the audience doesn’t click, that show is gone. There are drawbacks to our way, of course. Most obvious, it creates a situation in which programmers try to target the lowest common denominator to reach the highest common audience. But even that doesn’t guarantee success if the audience itself doesn’t see something that they like and are willing to tune in to watch. A second problem with our way is based on competition: there are so many different channels these days that quality programs often don’t have a sufficient chance to even be found, much less appreciated before they’re pulled from a network’s schedule.
But then there’s the question of authority: where do you, the viewer, want the authority over which shows make it into your living room? Do you want the government deciding that, or do you want to be the judge yourself?
(And before you answer, keep in mind that we’re talking about our government that has currently allowed a portion of itself to shutdown because they can’t agree.)
I’d rather at least have the option, even if it means that shows I likely won’t ever want to watch myself make the air. That’s not meant to be a defense — in any way — of reality television. It’s hard not to agree with the notion that many of them offer “low taste”. The funny thing, to me, is that if I consider the kinds of reality shows I see across the entire cable spectrum, when it comes to singing competitions, there are a lot more shows offering much lower taste than they do.
How do you feel about Chinese Television targeting reality television producers? Do you wish our government would limit the number of reality shows vs scripted shows on the air, or do you prefer the American way of letting the viewers have the bigger role in deciding the success or failure of television shows?