China

You Can't Say That on Chinese Television

China's Communist authorities have put out a laundry list of material they don't want to see on TV, from homosexuality to unpatriotic sound effects.

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a cultural revolution
Addiction

Chinese censors recently shut down Addiction, an online TV show about four gay high school students. They didn't give the program's producers an official rationale for the ban, but a document produced late last year by industry groups affiliated with the Chinese Communist Party suggests an explanation: The party objects to programming that "exhibits abnormal sexual relations," and it explicitly includes homosexuality in that category, alongside "incest…sexual perversion, sexual assault, sexual abuse and sexual violence."

The document, which was distributed to TV producers in December, offers a long inventory of material the industry is discouraged from creating. (As is often the case with such protocols, they have been presented as guidelines for "self-regulation.") Global Voices has translated and posted the list, and it reads like a Maoist tract crossed with Hollywood's old Motion Picture Production Code. In addition to opposing anything that seems too gay, the guidelines caution against content that:

• "exaggerates social problems and over-represents the dark side of society";

• "contradicts China's developmental path, or depicts unrealistic and luxurious lifestyles";

• "features drama plot lines, names, characters, images, sound effects [!] that are harmful to national feeling";

• "excessively shows religious dogmas, rules or rituals";

• "makes jokes of religious practices";

• "shows violence or homicide, or focuses on the pervasiveness of dark and evil forces";

• "features obscure criminal cases";

• "exhibits deviant acts such as drug abuse, alcoholism or gambling";

• "exhibits and encourages unhealthy marital relations and status, such as extramarital relations, one-night stands or sexual autonomy";

• "rewrites classic literature or distorts the morality of the original stories";

• "contradicts history books";

• "glorifies the military invasion of imperial dynasties in Chinese history";

• "exhibits young people's misbehavior such as love affairs, smoking, drinking or street fights";

• "exhibits or reveals the details of specific governmental projects or departmental systems";

and much, much more, covering topics from "feudal beliefs" to insufficiently respectful portraits of law enforcement. As far as I can tell, if you're a Chinese TV producer and you want to keep the authorities happy, your best bet is to put out something like this:

But maybe a little less exciting. Just to stay on the safe side.