China to tone down new year TV galas in anti-graft push

BEIJING (REUTERS) - China will tone down and simplify the glitzy, kitsch and widely watched television galas beamed across the country over the traditional Lunar New Year festival, state media said on Friday, as part of government efforts to fight graft.

The "CCTV Spring Festival Gala", a more than four-hour showcase of comedy skits, music and dance, has become a lounge room fixture for hundreds of millions of Chinese since first broadcast in 1982, spawning copy-cat shows on regional stations over the holiday.

This year, Canadian singer Celine Dion - wildly popular in China - was given top billing on CCTV's gala where she sang "My Heart Will Go On" and a Chinese song, and every year a whole host of famous Chinese faces put in appearances.

But next year's event is going to be a more basic affair, the official Xinhua news agency reported, following newly installed President Xi Jinping's campaign to cast aside extravagance in the name of fighting corruption and winning back public trust.

"Stage lighting and decoration will use the most economical technologies, luxurious decors will be spurned, and simplicity will be striven for," Xinhua said of the main CCTV gala for next year.

Beijing Television will also cut spending on lighting, decorations and payments to stars on its show, focusing instead on "the experience of the feelings of local people", the news agency added.

Shanghai Television will give more space to new and upcoming artists, while Zhejiang Television will no longer allow any A-list celebrities to appear, Xinhua said.

"All of these measures are to control ... the indiscriminate extravagances of television galas," a spokesman for China's television regulator was quoted as saying.

The new rules echo similar demands made of officials to simplify their lives by Mr Xi since he took over as Communist Party chief last November.

He has made cutting back on extravagance and waste a key theme of his administration, seeking to assuage anger over corruption and restore faith in the party.