Until now, China's increasingly totalitarian regime had raged over, scolded its companies and generally cracked down over (somewhat) legitimate reasons: fledgling monopolies, information warehousing, educational profiteering, and generally anything that did not comply with Xi's new "shared prosperity" theme. But all that went out of the window overnight when China's Xinhua reported that four regional broadcasters were summoned for an inquiry on Friday for airing "excessive entertainment" programs in their satellite TV services.
The broadcasters under question are the regional radio and TV stations of Shanghai, Jiangsu, Zhejiang and Hunan; the four were called to a meeting with officials from the CCP's central propaganda department and the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (SARFT), Xinhua reported.
During the inquiry, the Publicity Department of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and the National Radio and Television Administration did acknowledge the contribution of the four regional broadcasters in promoting mainstream values and spreading positive energy in recent years.
Taking a page right out of a Stalinist purge, the satellite channels of these four stations were found to have flaws of streaming "excessive entertainment" materials and hyping entertainment stars to varying degrees, which according to a statement issued after the inquiry, "must be resolutely rectified."
In other words, no more "excessive entertainment" which may be similar to "too many notes" only nobody really knows: after all this is just the latest example of Beijing censors losing their mind.
"In recent years, radio and television stations in these four provinces and cities have ... made positive contributions in promoting mainstream values and spreading positive energy," the bosses were told.
"But some satellite channels also have problems, such as an excessive focus on entertainment, star-chasing and speculation, which must be resolutely rectified," the officials warned.
The central authorities asked the four stations to carry out comprehensive measures to improve their cultural and entertainment programs, maintain political consciousness, and give priority to social benefits.
Like not airing "excessive entertainment."
Similar to channels like MSNBC, the scolded stations should instead focus more on vigorously prompting core socialist values, praising ordinary workers, and playing a leading role in the transformation and development of provincial radio and television services, the statement added.
The broadcasters said they will earnestly implement the directives, comprehensively push forward rectifications, and speed up transformation. Because under a totalitarian socialist regime, that's what you do.
The warning to the satellite channels came as the SARFT unveiled a new production process for centrally approved radio, TV, and online audiovisual content "in the new era." In other words, even more censorship is coming.
The agency called on all radio, TV, and online content producers to start making TV dramas, documentaries, and cartoons, as well as public service films, that "depict the major achievements and history of the CCP's century of struggle."
The newly commissioned content should "fully demonstrate that Xi Jinping's new era of socialism with Chinese characteristics has taken root," it said in a directive on Oct. 29. The SARFT will also impose strict controls on the selection of actors and guests, as well as on performance styles, costumes, and make-up, it said.
Some social media users said the four satellite channels targeted for "rectification" were the only channels they ever watched. Online commentators took issue with the ongoing ideological crackdown on China's media, which was already tightly controlled.
"Isn't the point of TV that it's just for entertainment?" one comment said. Others worried that the move would take China's radio and TV industries back to the pre-reform era.
As a reminder, a political essay by a little-known commentator was showcased by China's state-run media over the summer, suggesting that Xi Jinping is taking the country away from the pro-market policies of the past four decades, which have become associated with decadence by party ideologues.
The essay, titled "Everyone can tell that profound social change is under way" and printed in CCP mouthpiece the People's Daily, uses the recent crackdown on China's scandal-hit entertainment industry to argue that profound political change is afoot that will focus on easing inequality. The essay argues that the CCP has launched a "profound revolution" with its crackdown on celebrity culture, billionaires, and the private sector generally.
"This revolution will wash all of the dirt away," said the essay, signed by Li Guangman, columnist and former editor of the trade publication Central China Electric Power.
"Our capital markets will no longer be a paradise for capitalists to get rich overnight; our cultural sphere no longer a paradise for sex-crazed celebrities, and the worship of Western culture will no longer be a feature of our news coverage or public opinion," Li wrote.
The article was reprinted on Aug. 29 by state news agency Xinhua, CCTV, China News Service, the Global Times website, and Guangming.com.
"Literary and artistic workers, film and television workers must get down to the grassroots of society, making ordinary workers and ordinary people the masters and protagonists of art and literature," it said.
In retrospect, it may not be a terrible idea to force a similar standard on Hollywood celebs who under China's new draconian regime would be limited to make not much more than average wage. One wonders how many of them remain vocal liberals once their money was gone...