THE year started poorly for the Chinese entertainment industry, which has been clouded by a stream of negative news and scandals. And now the authorities have stepped in to issue new rules to “clean up” TV shows.
The State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television has begun clamping down on artistes who have misbehaved.
This category includes those who have cheated on their spouses or are involved in other scandals, and those with tattoos.
In addition, TV programmes that feature hip-hop, any sub-culture or decadent culture, and content at odds with the Communist Party’s values, are banned. Shows with vulgar, immoral and “low-taste” content were taken off all platforms.
It is not yet clear if these rules will be enforced strictly or whether exceptions can be made, such as when artistes cover up their tattoos. If there is no flexibility, it looks like half of them can plan for a long vacation.
The first to be slapped with a red card was Zhou Yan, better known as Gai. The rapper was suddenly kicked out from Hunan TV’s popular singing competition show Singer.
As the show was pre-recorded, the TV station was forced to edit out his shots from the second episode and had to scramble to replace him before the episode could be aired.
The TV station also removed another rapper, VaVa, from its flagship variety show, Happy Camp. Editing him out was a super-tough job for the production team because the show’s guests played games and there was a lot of interaction among them as well as with the hosts. When the latest episode was aired, VaVa was still in some shots but his face was covered with special effects.
Fans of Gai and VaVa have pointed fingers at rapper PG One. It is unfair to blame one person because the entertainment industry is never short of scandals, but no one can deny that PG One is at the eye of the storm of controversies that triggered the crackdown.
First, it was the stories about his affair with married actress Li Xiaolu, who is 13 years his senior. Then came news of him taking drugs and having sexual relationships with several women.
He next came under attack after complaints that his song, Christmas Eve, contained lewd lyrics, insulted women, encouraged drug abuse and “corrupted young minds”.
As a result, PG One was boycotted and his tracks removed from all Chinese streaming platforms earlier this month. He apologised and explained that he was deeply influenced by what he called “black music”.
The government’s new measures have hugely damaged the rising hip-hop culture in China.
Last year, hip-hop music was in the national spotlight for the first time. The Internet reality show Rap of China, which sees rappers battling among themselves, has garnered over 2.5 billion views on China’s largest online video hosting site, iQiyi. This has brought underground rappers to the fore.
Some 700 aspiring rappers auditioned for the show. Gai and PG One were the joint champions, while VaVa came in fourth.
Another hot gossip topic is the income of top Chinese actors and actresses, and the figures for 2017 are jaw-dropping.
It was reported that award-winning actress Zhou Xun was paid a sky-high 95 million yuan (RM58mil) for shooting the 99-episode costume drama Ruyi’s Royal Love in the Palace.
Next was Angelababy, also known as Angela Yang Ying, who raked in 80 million yuan (RM49mil) for the TV series General and I.
The actress came under heavy criticism because of the big pay, with many arguing that Angelababy, who is known for her shaky acting, did not deserve such an amount as she shot most of the scenes in the studio or a double was often used.
As expected, the 62-episode show, also a costume drama, was picked to be among the Top 10 Worst Dramas of 2017. It was also rumoured that award-winning actor Chen Daoming left the TV series City of Desire last year after learning that Angelababy would be the lead actress.
Other big earners last year included Sun Li, who was paid 60 million yuan (RM37mil) for shooting the 81-episode Legend of Miyue; Zhao Wei (RM25 mil for Tiger Mom); Fan Bingbing (RM18mil for The Empress of China), Gao Yuanyuan (RM15mil); and Hong Kong actor Wallace Chung (RM31mil).
“No wonder so many people are willing to bear the risk and pain of going under the knife so that they can be in the entertainment industry,” said one critic on China’s Twitter-like site Weibo.