Chinese censors have set their sights on yet another form of dangerous television programming — reality TV that features children.
Last month, the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television (SAPPRFT), China’s media watchdog, introduced rules banning television shows from depicting “vulgar, immoral and unhealthy content,” including smoking, drinking, adultery, sexual freedom, homosexuality, perversion and reincarnation. Apparently, however, they forgot about something.
In order to protect innocent minors from the perils of “overnight fame,” SAPPRFT issued a notice banning reality shows from featuring children — particularly those of celebrities.
Which is more bad news for the Chinese television industry. The top-rated reality show “Where Are We Going, Dad?” (爸爸去哪儿) was one of the most popular in China. Based off a Korean reality show of the same name, it first debuted on October 11, 2013. Its formula of featuring five celebrities traveling to rural locations with their adorable children was an instant hit, attracting 75 million viewers a week to Hunan Television, spawning two blockbusters movies and numerous copycat shows.
In response, Hunan TV has canceled the fourth season of its extraordinarily lucrative show that was originally scheduled to make them a lot of money this summer. They have also canceled newer spin-offs like “Dad is Back” and “My Mom is a Superwoman” from broadcasting on television, saying they will be thrown up online.
State media accuse these kinds of shows of damaging children’s psychological development with “overnight fame” — perhaps they looked at the track record of American child actors to back up this claim. Instead, celebrity kids will be removed from the limelight and left free to “enjoy the childhood that they are entitled to,” Xinhua says.
Back in July 2015, SAPPRFT announced plans to make reality programming more real by declaring that shows blend in “socialist core values” and not become “a place to show off wealth and rely on celebrities.” Instead, reality shows should pay more attention to the lives of ordinary people and limit the participation of minors. A month before that they announced rules to limit broadcasters to one reality show per year with content “close to the masses, with no exaggeration and no mixing the spurious with the genuine.” Just like reality programming was meant to be.
So, “Where Are We Going Dad?” looks to be gone. But don’t worry, there are still many fine programming options available in China:
Or you can just go online: