China Restricts TV Shows Based On Foreign Formats

China is restricting TV shows that use formats from abroad such as “The Voice of China,” which is based on a Dutch talent show, in a move it says is intended to lead to more innovation and original programming among Chinese TV channels.

The State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television has issued similar orders in the past to satellite TV channels, limiting variety shows, reality programs and, most recently, programs that employ celebrities’ children.

The directive, the text of which was published last week on, a news portal run by the Cabinet’s information office, said that some channels were “still too dependent on broadcasting foreign programs” and had few original ideas.

The directive called on broadcasters to heed President Xi Jinping’s call “to establish cultural self-confidence” and “make quality programs with Chinese cultural characteristics.”

Authorities are keen for China’s film and TV industry to make products capable of attracting a global audience. They are also keen to wrest back Communist Party control over cultural industries to make sure they still have the power to dictate public opinion.

In the published directive, satellite TV channels who want to broadcast programs with foreign rights must submit them for examination to provincial broadcasting regulators.

Satellite TV channels are only allowed to broadcast two programs with formats from abroad during evening prime time each year. Only one such program being shown in China for the first time may be broadcast in a year, and not during the 7:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. prime time.


Channels that broadcast newly imported TV programs without approval will be banned from showing any foreign-inspired programs for one year.

The national regulator has frequently criticized reality shows and earlier this year banned the children of celebrities from appearing on such shows, taking the sail out of the wings of “Where Are We Going, Dad?” — a South Korean-inspired show that was such a hit in China that one episode was shown in cinemas.

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