SARFT’s guide to talent show etiquette


Wang Han and Li Xiang, hosts of last years’ Super Girls competition

SARFT issued a notice to television and broadcast stations yesterday informing them of new rules intended to stem the tide of vulgar talent shows that have been so detrimental to national morality in recent months.

The notice stipulates what sort of talent shows can be broadcast when, and by what sort of broadcaster. It prescribes a comprehensive pre-screening process for program content, length, judges, hosts, and special guests. In response to loud complaints about the unfairness of SMS vote tallying, it bans all off-site voting – whether by SMS, Internet, or telephone. Additionally, programs are prohibited from using dirty tricks to mislead voters in the studio audience.

The most recent debacle was broadcast live on Chongqing TV, so the new regulations allow only the last episode of the final stage of any competition to be a live broadcast. Even then it must be delayed at least one minute, and the program must “guarantee that no problems will occur.”

SARFT also expands on previous guides to appropriate behavior. Here’s the Administration’s latest rubric on participant etiquette:

The design of participatory competitions must place constraints on the content. Speeches by the hosts, critiques by the judges, personal expressions by the contestants, emotional displays by family and friends, and interstitial scenes must be significantly reduced; they may not make up more than 20% of the total program time. The competition content itself must make up at least 80% of the total program time. In singing competitions (apart from competitions devoted to foreign songs), domestic songs must account for at least 75% of each episode’s songs.

Competitors’ stage presence, language, hairstyle, and attire must be in line with mainstream aesthetics. Contestants must be strictly screened; morally and behaviorally deficient contestants may not be selected. The contestants’ fortitude, maturity, independence, confidence, health, and ambition must be shown off. Programs are not to manufacture gimmickry, sensationalism, or exaggerated grief, and they may not openly broadcast or allude to negative information and gossip about contestants. Contestants must be above 18 years of age….

Program hosts must be be aware of the nature of their position. They must strengthen their sense of social responsibility, and they must be adept in handling problems that may break out during the course of the program. Hosts may not express personal emotions or likes and dislikes during the program; they may not call attention to personal expression. Their words must be concise. They may not use intimate forms of address like “sister” or “brother” when talking to contestants, special guests, judges, or any other performers. Hosts may not mock, flatter, or flirt with each other.

Judges and special guests must be authoritative and professional, and must be acknowledged within their field. Judges and guests must have a good social conscience and personal morality, and they must be cultivated and self-restrained. Judges and special guests must make their judgments fair, professional, appropriate, and concise. They are there to increase the audience’s level of artistic appreciation and are not permitted to discuss matters unrelated to the competition itself. They may not use their position as judge or special guest to promote themselves. Their attire and hairstyle shall be in good taste.

SARFT concludes with an appeal to television stations and administrative organs to carry out the spirit of the notice – presumably to cover whatever details they overlooked in their description of proper behavior.

This parody from the 2005 season of Super Girls is looking more prescient every day:

Zhou Tao: The land is filled with reform’s spring breeze, and super girls must test their wills. Viewers, the Super Girls competing in today’s competition have been selected by local TV stations across the country. Passing through stringent political investigations, they are red-rooted and upright, they are actively moving forward, they work hard to closely organize, they are both red and professional, and they are completely trustworthy.

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