DAVID GREENE, HOST:
We have a story now on the latest crackdown in China. It's a crackdown on excessive entertainment. Beijing's propaganda czars have taken aim at dating shows and game shows. They've cut almost 70 percent of the entertainment shows from prime-time TV. As NPR's Louisa Lim reports from Beijing, this is part of a larger ideological campaign.
(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "TAKE ME OUT")
UNIDENTIFIED ANNOUNCER #1: (Foreign language spoken)
LOUSIA LIM, BYLINE: Tens of millions of people tune in every week to the Chinese dating show "Take Me Out." It's pure entertainment: girls in skimpy dresses hoping for a date; sweaty, geeky guys stammering questions; and two effete hosts with matching bouffant hairstyles. But as of last week, "Take Me Out' was bumped from prime time.
(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "ORDINARY HERO")
UNIDENTIFIED ANNOUNCER #2: (Foreign language spoken)
LIM: Instead, its millions of fans got "Ordinary Hero," uplifting tales of ordinary people doing heroic things - like a firefighter saving a 10-year-old kid stuck in an elevator. This is a move to promote traditional virtues and socialist core values. The fans, including Michael Zhong, a dating-show aficionado, are not happy.
MICHAEL ZHONG: This rule is - most people don't like it. We definitely show our disagreement on it. I believe the shows should be draft(ph) by market.
LIM: This is, in effect, a government U-turn, according to Hu Xingdou, a political analyst at Beijing Institute of Technology.
HU XINGDOU: (Through translator) The government led this move towards consumerism and entertainment mania. They urged people not to get involved with politics - suggesting politics is too dangerous; go and earn money, and have fun. But now in China, it's gone too far. We've amused ourselves to death, and morality has almost collapsed.
(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW)
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: (Foreign language spoken)
LIM: That moral collapse has showed itself in rampant money worship, transfixing television audiences. This dating show contestant told a potential suitor that a boyfriend would have to earn $30,000 a month to even hold her hand. But limitations on TV content are nothing new. Interviewed even before the latest clampdown, author Murong Xuecun described the situation as almost farcical.
MURONG XUECUN: (Through translator) At one time, all you could see on TV were court dramas from the Qing Dynasty, but then those were restricted. It's the same with almost every genre. Then family dramas were banned if they included love triangles or affairs. Spy dramas were restricted. Now, you can't shoot anything with ghosts in it, although you can have monsters. I hosted a TV show, and we weren't even allowed to use the words "time travel."
LIM: Culture has been top of the political agenda for months. President Hu Jintao recently wrote of international hostile forces strengthening their efforts to westernize and divide China, using ideology and culture. But analyst Hu Xingdou doesn't believe the official line.
XINGDOU: (Through translator) I don't think this has much to do with division and westernization. The young people have already been westernized. The battlefield of public opinion that they're really fighting over is how to control the intellectuals. But mostly, the intellectuals aren't buying it.
(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "WHEN HEAVEN BURNS")
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: (Foreign language spoken)
LIM: For the first time in two decades, a Hong Kong TV drama, "When Heaven Burns," has been forbidden on the mainland. The cultural purge could yet go further still. A new, draft law governing the film industry would ban movies featuring religious fanaticism, gambling, drug abuse and even horror. Hao Jian, a professor at Beijing Film Academy, believes that in yielding to their tendency to control, China's leaders are highlighting their own insecurities.
HAO JIAN: (Through translator) We feel tighter and tighter controls on politics, on Twitter, on entertainment, and on TV news. Our political system is wary of the outside world - even hostile to it. Sometimes we say it has a persecution complex. It always feels people are infiltrating us, attacking us, westernizing us. It's a very fearful psychological state.
(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "SUPER GIRL")
UNIDENTIFIED ANNOUNCER #3: (Foreign language spoken)
LIM: That fear is such that this year, even "Super Girl," a singing contest, is banned. That stormed the ratings six years ago. Eight million votes were cast in the final alone - making it, arguably, the most open election in China. The danger is that by tightening their grip on entertainment, China's leaders are neutering their own artists, and alienating many millions of non-political youth, who only want to relax and be entertained.
Louisa Lim, NPR News, Beijing.