Chinese Regulators Crack Down on TV Infomercials (Video)

A Chinese infomercial advertising a breast-firming vibrating bra, as shown on "Ellen"

The country’s TV stations are rife with ads hawking everything from Chinese medicine to vibrating bras -- a product Ellen Degeneres recently demoed on her show -- but officials are now looking to clean up the landscape.

Woe to Chinese vibrating bra salesmen.

Producers of massage gadgets, body slimming tonics, knock-off jewelry and all other manner of snake oil-like products will soon have to look for new ways of reaching China’s most gullible consumers, after the country’s television watchdog introduced strict new limits this week on the volume of infomercials TV stations are allowed to broadcast.

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Chinese satellite television has been littered with shrill infomercials selling everything from Chinese medicine, to blinged-out wrist watches and contraptions that promise to lengthen limbs, adding desirable extra inches in height. But media watchdog agency the State General Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television is now looking to clean up the airwaves.

The new guidelines limit broadcasters to a maximum of three minutes per hour and ban infomercials outright from 6 p.m. to midnight.

Given the volume of paying infomercials previously carried, the crackdown could be a revenue decrease for China’s satellite stations, which have become increasingly popular in recent years as an alternative to state-backed networks such as CCTV.

The SARFT ruling follows another recent dictate announced in October, which restricts satellite broadcasters to airing just one show per year that is based on an imported foreign format. The new rules also say TV channels cannot broadcast a foreign format during primetime. Those guidelines take effect at the start of 2014.

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While the rescheduling of foreign formats might cause some disappointment for viewers of hit shows such as Hunan Satellite Television’s local version of the X Factor, it appears viewers will be happy to get behind the infomercial restrictions. According to a survey conducted by state mouthpiece the People’s Daily, 45 percent of Chinese TV shoppers say they have been cheated by TV offers. Of the 1,783 people surveyed, 14.3 percent said they had tried TV shopping, but only 5 percent found the experience satisfying.

The quirkiness (or quakiness) of some Chinese infomercials has occasionally attracted attention in the U.S. In July, Ellen tested a vibrating bra from one such infomercial that promises firming of the breasts by scientific means.

Watch the bit below.

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