China curbing TV ads

BBC Monitoring is reporting that China imposed restrictions on all of its provincial satellite TV channels about a month ago. “Authorities could now be gearing up to announce another measure aimed at tightening their grip on the mass media – a ban on all ads during TV dramas on all stations, including state-owned CCTV,” says the report.

“This time, the government could really take our lives if it really bans all commercial breaks during the most watched TV series,” an unidentified executive with a mainland TV station is quoted in the report.

Ads during dramas broadcast at prime time are the mainstay of TV stations’ income. “Seventy percent of the revenue comes from ads during dramas. If the State Administration of Radio Film and Television (SARFT) bans ads during shows and dramas, the industry will lose up to 20 billion yuan of ad income,” the TV station executive said. “We can’t survive.”

The BBC reminds us that watching TV shows and dramas is the most affordable entertainment in China. As the quality of shows and dramas in local productions has improved in the past decade, the Chinese have become more interested in watching television. Every year the Spring Festival Gala Show on CCTV attracts more than 500 million viewers, more than the audience for America’s Super Bowl. In China, the hottest TV series also attract viewership of more than 100 million.

The regulator is reported to be focusing on curbing the encroachment of commercials. TV stations put out a lot of ads during dramas, with audiences seeing ads flashing from different corners on the screen. Some of the dramas are shown on pay-TV and the government apparently thinks that pay-TV should not put out ads during their shows.