China slams high actor pay, bars ‘effeminate’ behaviour from screens

China has been putting pressure on what it describes as a "chaotic" celebrity fan culture.
China has been putting pressure on what it describes as a "chaotic" celebrity fan culture.PHOTO: AFP

BEIJING (REUTERS) - China expanded a crackdown on its entertainment industry on Thursday (Sept 2), telling broadcasters to bar artists with “incorrect political positions” and effeminate styles from shows, and said a “patriotic atmosphere” needed to be cultivated.

The National Radio and Television Administration (NRTA) said in an online notice that it will strengthen regulation over cultural programmes, cracking down on what it deems unhealthy content as well as stars’ salaries and tax evasion.

Chinese regulators have been tightening their oversight over a broad swathe of industries ranging from technology to education to strengthen control over society and key sectors of the economy after years of runaway growth.

On Monday, they introduced new rules limiting the amount of time children can spend on video games.

The entertainment industry entered their crosshairs after a series of celebrity scandals involving tax evasion and sexual assault. Last week, China’s internet regulator said it was taking action against what it described as a “chaotic” celebrity fan culture.

The NRTA said regulations capping pay for actors and guests should be strictly enforced and they should be encouraged to participate in public welfare programmes as well as to assume social responsibilities, said the notice. Tax evasion would be strictly punished.

The selection of actors and guests should be carefully controlled, with political literacy and moral conduct included as criteria.

The notice also said that what it called “deformed” tastes such as “effeminate” aesthetics in programmes should be ended. Entertainment involving “vulgar” internet celebrities, scandals and flaunting of wealth should be rejected.

Unhealthy fan culture should be cracked down on, and voting segments of programmes strictly controlled, with encouragements for fans to spend money to vote strictly forbidden, said the notice.

China has stringent rules on content ranging from video games to movies to music, and censors anything it believes violates core socialist values.

After years of runaway growth in the world’s second largest economy, regulators have been to trying to strengthen control over Chinese society by tightening oversight over a broad swathe of industries ranging from technology to education. They have urged for measures to be taken to reduce gaping inequality.

Separate notices also published on Thursday by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism and the China Association of Performing Arts said that performers, such as livestreaming stars, should undergo periodic training on professional ethics while agencies should terminate contracts with performers who “lack moral discipline.”

Besides criticising the culture of celebrity worship, authorities and state media have criticised male stars who favour heavy make up and project a feminine image, saying Chinese boys should become more manly.

Chinese celebrities have attended government-arranged courses to learn about Communist Party history and carried out“self criticism” in the past two months in response to the crackdown.

At an event in Beijing in late August, movie stars Zhou Dongyu and Du Jiang read aloud a statement criticising stars who had “crossed the bottom line,” calling on entertainers to never become “slaves of the market” and to be responsible to society, according to a video in local media.

Entertainers should “bravely scale artistic heights under the leadership of the (Communist) Party!” they said, to applause.