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LinkAsia | Mar 19
This past week, the 3,000 delegates of China's National People's Congress approved the selection of a new president and prime minister. Now, as the...
Still in China. It sounds like the holy grail for TV addicts. No commercials during movies or television dramas. That’s what SARFT, the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television, announced this week. But our contributor in Beijing, Charlie Custer, tells us this may not be a dream come true.
The rules will still allow for advertisements between one program and the next, but not in the middle of shows. Some analysts suggest that Chinese stations will lose more than three billion dollars in yearly advertising avenue. SARFT says the measure is aimed at making TV more enjoyable for viewers and getting rid of interruptions. But it could be another move aimed at bolstering state-run CCTV, which is seen as stagey and dull. However, CCTV will likely also take a financial hit as it also runs ads.
On the Internet, Chinese net users aren’t sure quite what to think. On the one hand, SARFT is widely despised for canceling and restricting popular entertainment programs. But on the other hand, nobody likes watching commercials. One online poll showed most netizens supported the measure, but more than 10 percent opposed it and nearly 20 percent were ambivalent, suggesting the move would have advantages and disadvantages for viewers.
"SARFT should have done this long time ago," wrote one Weibo user. "Some stations run too many ads and indiscriminately, and actually that affects their ratings."
Others aren’t so sure. "Actually I think TV ads are ok, they give everybody an opportunity to use the bathroom, right?" wrote another.
But many netizens felt the change was likely superficial. "They are not allowing ads during TV programs, but they didn’t say they wouldn’t allow [stations to run] TV programs during ads!" One widely copied message alluding to suspicions that the change would only mean much longer commercial breaks between programs.
Of course, there is the question of products placement. But some netizens are worried that TV advertisements would be pushed further in that direction. Earlier this week, an American actress in Beijing tweeted that her lines for one day of a Chinese television program contained no fewer than five brand names. And some netizens on Weibo are asking SARFT to go further and place restrictions on product placement in TV and even in the movies.
Some networks are already promising they won’t increase advertising time between programs. But it’s hard to imagine how a television station could sustain significant revenue loss and still maintain program quality. SARFT’s regulation is going to effect on New Year’s Day. So TV stations have been given barely a month to rearrange their programming schedules and change advertising plans. But to see what effect the regulations really have, we will have to wait until next year. In Beijing, I’m Charlie Custer, for LinkAsia.