China to crack down on 'chaotic' online fan culture; iQiyi halts 'idol competition' programmes

Beijing has in recent months strongly criticised the overall fostering of what it called "unhealthy fan culture". PHOTO: AFP

BEIJING (REUTERS) - China will move to crack down on the "chaotic" online celebrity fan culture, the country's cyberspace regulator said in a notice published on Friday (Aug 27), part of an ongoing state campaign to "rectify" the Internet sector.

The Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) said it would take action against the dissemination of "harmful information" in celebrity fan groups and close down discussion channels that spread celebrity scandals or "provoke trouble".

The administration will improve the way it regulates the promotion of celebrities online and also ban lists that rank celebrities by popularity, the notice said.

It will also take action against the financial exploitation of netizens through the sale of merchandise or by charging fans to vote for their favourite acts in online variety shows. It also aims to restrict access to online fan groups for minors.

On Thursday, Chinese video-streaming platform iQiyi announced that it would stop showing "idol competition" programmes amid growing government criticism of celebrities and "unhealthy fan culture".

China's equivalent of Netflix, iQiyi had amassed a number of hits with programmes, such as Youth With You, which allowed viewers to vote for boy band contestants by purchasing products with voting codes.

Beijing, however, has in recent months strongly criticised such shows and the overall fostering of what it called "unhealthy fan culture" after a number of celebrities including Canadian pop star Kris Wu and Chinese actor Zhang Zhehan were caught up in scandals.

"We will cancel idol talent shows and off-site online voting, be responsible as a platform, resist bad influences, and maintain a healthy and clean Internet, as well as audio-visual environment for our users," iQiyi said in a statement.

iQiyi dropped the third season of Youth With You before its finale earlier this year, after a controversy in which fans of the show were filmed wasting milk in their bid to qualify to vote.

The Internet sector has been the target of an unprecedentedly wide-ranging regulatory crackdown which has seen the authorities rebuke and punish companies on areas from monopolistic behaviour to consumer rights.

This month, China's Twitter-like Sina Weibo took down an online list that ranks celebrities by popularity after state media said social media platforms ought to rein in the promotion of celebrity culture to protect children.

Celebrities have also been directly criticised. On Tuesday, the China Federation of Literary and Art Workers Professional Ethics Committee held a forum in Beijing that issued a proposal advocating strict self-discipline for actors and other entertainers.

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