Suit over Voice Of China

BEIJING • The future of the Chinese singing competition judged by pop king Jay Chou is uncertain, as the Dutch producer of the Voice format charged on Wednesday that the Chinese show is a pirated programme, said Sina website.

In the latest salvo of a copyright dispute between format owner Talpa Global and its former Chinese partner Star China Media, Talpa Holding chief executive Pim Schmitz held a press conference in Beijing.

On Jan 22 in Hong Kong, Talpa sought an interim injunction banning Star China from producing and broadcasting the fifth season of The Voice Of China. On Jan 28, Star China said it would sue Talpa for unilaterally breaking the contract between them.

The Voice Of China has since been renamed China Super Vocal for its upcoming fifth season, which retains Chou, as well as singers Wang Feng, Na Ying and Harlem Yu as judges. It has announced a new logo, which replaces the original hand and microphone with the letter V. The show, which retains its Chinese title Zhong Guo Hao Sheng Yin, has been cleared by Chinese censors and is planning a July premiere, said Sina.

But on Wednesday, Talpa said Star China's show, even with a new logo and amendments to the format, is "pirated" and illegal.

It said it could not work with Star China on The Voice Of China anymore for the fifth season because Star China offered a too-low price, reported Sina. Mr Schmitz said: "This show is more and more popular every year. It's natural and normal for prices to rise and no country is an exception. However, we found that our partner, in making the terms of a contract proposal for the fifth season, wanted to pay a fee lower than for the second season."

Talpa said it did not break the contract unilaterally. Rather, Mr Schmitz said, both sides failed to negotiate a new deal because of Star China's "absurd" terms. Talpa will take further legal action to prevent the broadcasting of the show, he said.

Separately, Talpa is preparing a new season of The Voice Of China with another Chinese company, Talent International, he said.

Talpa is owned by British broadcaster ITV. Star China, which was owned by News Corp, was sold to Chinese company China Media Capital in 2010. It has produced other adaptations of foreign variety shows, such as China's Got Talent.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 22, 2016, with the headline 'Suit over Voice Of China'. Print Edition | Subscribe