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China cuts 'too popular' TV shows

China is to restrict reality shows and other light entertainment on satellite TV as part of a drive to wrest back Communist Party control over culture.

The order from the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television, known as SARFT, refers to shows that are vulgar or "overly entertaining." It singles out programs dealing with marital troubles and matchmaking, talent shows, game shows, variety shows, talk shows and reality programming.

Such shows must be largely phased out by the beginning of next year by the country's 34 satellite TV stations, to be replaced with news and cultural programming. The order also bans viewership surveys and the use of ratings as the sole criteria for whether to broadcast a particular show.

The changes aim to "meet the public's demand for varied, multi-level, and high quality viewing," said the order.

"Satellite channels are mainly for the broadcast of news propaganda and should expand the proportion of news, economic, cultural, science and education, children's, and documentary programming," it said.

The order follows a Communist Party meeting last week that asserted the need for strengthening social morality and boosting China's cultural influence abroad - a recognition by the party that it is losing its power to dictate public opinion.

Social media, especially hugely popular microblogs that encourage individuals to generate content, are also being targeted by government censors.

The crackdown coincides with a bout of national hand-wringing over a lack of public ethics, highlighted by the death last week of a toddler who was struck by a vehicle and left for dead by passers by. Officials believe the promotion of "core socialist values" - a phrase meant to counter calls by liberal Chinese for "universal values" - will bolster social cohesion in the face of rising materialism.

The communique said television programmes and other cultural products should be "refined and inspiring," while oversight of the internet must be strengthened to block pornography, vulgarity, and the "transmission of harmful information."

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