Information Flow, PRC Style

Last month the People’s Republic of China’s government news service, Xinhua News Service, carried a statement from the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (SARFT) concerning the PRC’s decision about what the Chinese people will be permitted to see on theirthe government’s television sets.  The translation is courtesy of NightWatch.

A recently implemented rule has effectively curbed the “excessive entertainment” trend as two-thirds of the entertainment programs on China’s 34 satellite channels have been cut….  According to an SARFT directive last October, each of the country’s satellite channels would be limited to broadcasting two entertainment programs each week and a maximum of 90 minutes of content defined as entertainment every day during primetime….  The directive also required channels to broadcast at least two hours of news programming.

The restricted programs on the SARFT list include dating shows, talent contests, talk shows as well as emotional stories that were deemed ‘excessive entertainment’ and of “low taste.”  …the satellite channels have started to broadcast programs that promote traditional virtues and socialist core values.  The newly-added programs…are documentaries as well as cultural and educational programs….  The SARFT believes that the move to cut entertainment programming is crucial in improving cultural services for the public….

Nothing like limiting speech “for their own good.”  The Chinese people apparently are sufficiently bereft in judgment that they cannot be left to their own devices—or to their own decisions concerning what speech they might wish to hear.

KnightWatch reminds us that the PRC does not have freedom of speech.  It’s important to note, also, that these broadcasting restrictions are consistent with another fundamental ideological position of the PRC: free markets, free speech, freedom of association, and so on are not inalienable rights; they are privileges granted by government, to be adjusted from time to time solely according to government judgment.

Consider also, the background of this broadcasting move.  In response to increasing influence in the PRC  by Western culture and ideas, which has been facilitated by increasing foreign trade (and some loosening of economic strictures in the direction of freer markets), which in turn helps foster an increasingly prosperous peasant and middle class population (at least by historical Chinese standards), Chinese leadership is pulling back and retightening restrictions.

Last fall, the Chinese Communist Party Central Committee approved an explicitly ideological foundation for cultural activities, announcing a new policy specifically to eliminate many Western entertainment shows and so limit much foreign influence.  Moreover, the PRC government earlier this year ordered internet service providers to ensure that microblog posters (a rough equivalent to the Western Twitter facility) have registered their accounts under their real names—no anonymity here. The government also has pressured those running the microblog platforms to censor themselves “voluntarily.”

So, I ask: of what is the PRC government so afraid?  Oh, wait—it’s the men populating the government…. And I ask further: why do we want these guys for our national banker?

h/t Business Insider

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