Chinese Graftbusters Set Sights on Film and TV

China Dragons Illustration - P 2014
Illustration by: Lars Leetaru

China Dragons Illustration - P 2014

China's wide-ranging crackdown on corruption in the entertainment industry is starting to reap results.

The top disciplinary watchdog of China's ruling Communist Party arrested 49 people in the entertainment industry for corruption last year, part of an ongoing crackdown on graft that is making serious waves in the film and TV sector.

A team of inspectors from the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection of the Communist Party of China (CCDI), working at the entertainment industry regulator, the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television (SAPPRFT), found 49 people in the industries "violated discipline" in 2014, the highest number in five years, said CCDI group leader Li Qiufang.

"The film, radio and television industries have never been 'clean,' and we are in a serious situation and must crack down on corruption in these fields," Li told the state news agency Xinhua.

Li said that most of the corruption cases were found in departments that dealt with censorship, advertising, the purchase of TV series from production companies and the procurement of equipment, as well as staff engaged in the operation of large-scale productions.

In September last year, a SAPPRFT TV series censor was sentenced to 10 years and six months behind bars for taking bribes of $47,970.

"TV station executives have the final say in whether to let TV series pass the censors and whether or not to buy them, and some producers promise a 10 to 15 percent cut of the total distribution fees to the executives to assure their work is aired," Wang Hailin, screenwriter of the popular historical drama The Bronze Teeth, told the Global Times newspaper.

These have opened the door for lesser quality shows, which could have long term repercussions, Wang said.

President Xi Jinping in late 2012 pledged to root out graft in China, whether it involves massive wealth accumulated by the powerful "tigers" of the elite or backhanders palmed over to the "flies" at the bottom of the Communist Party, he has taken some significant scalps.

The biggest is Bo Xilai, the former party boss in Dalian and Chongqing who was purged last year and is serving a life sentence for corruption and abuse of power while his wife Gu Kailai sits in jail for murder.