China Cracks Down on International TV Formats

Star China Media
Zhang Lei, winner of season 4 of 'The Voice of China'

The new rules will limit the number of international TV show adaptations allowed into the China market, such as huge hit 'The Voice of China.'

China has issued a strict curb on imported TV formats in an effort to "promote domestic originality,"  according to the country's central media regulator.

The new directive, which was published Saturday on, a news portal run by the Cabinet's information office, said that local satellite broadcasters will no longer be allowed to air remakes of popular international reality shows — such as the wildly popular The Voice of China, based on the format created by Dutch TV producer Talpa, now owned by ITV — without first getting official approval. Additional restrictions will curtail the number of such shows that are allowed into the Chinese market each year.

In a set of statements that accompanied the new rules, China's State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television (SAPPRFT) said that local channels were "still too dependent on broadcasting foreign programs" and lacked originality. The directive urged domestic TV companies to abide by Chinese president Xi Jinping's recent mandate that China's creative industries assert Chinese culture and espouse "core socialist values."

"Only domestically invented TV programs in the Chinese cultural tradition can properly convey the Chinese Dream, core socialist values, patriotism and Chinese traditions," the statement said.

"Audiences are craving more Chinese original programs," the regulators added.

Under the new regulations, satellite channels can air no more than two foreign or foreign-adapted programs during primetime (7:30 p.m.-10:30 p.m.) each year. And only one such program being shown in China for the first time can be aired in a given year, and not during primetime. The penalty for airing a foreign show without proper approval is a one-year ban on all foreign imports for that channel.

The new rules represent a continuation of SAPPRFT's crackdown on the Chinese satellite TV space. Earlier directives limited variety shows, reality series and programs that feature Chinese celebrities' children. In March, the regulator issued a ban on the depiction of "vulgar, immoral and unhealthy content," including smoking, drinking, adultery, homosexuality and reincarnation.