DONGYANG: Chinese film and television are reeling from what industry insiders call a “bitterly cold winter” of sharper government scrutiny that is expected to lead to more Communist Party-friendly content.
The entertainment sector had blossomed in recent years, with official encouragement by a government keen to replace foreign content with homegrown fare and develop the industry as a global “soft power” asset.
But a nationwide push for more party-approved material across media, music and entertainment has combined with a clampdown on spiralling screen-star salaries to cloud the outlook.
“(It’s been a) cold winter, a bitterly cold winter,” said Yu Zheng, screenwriter and producer of the hugely popular series “Story of Yanxi Palace”.
The period drama set amid Qing dynasty court intrigue drew 18 billion views on Chinese platform iQIYI and was the most “Googled” TV show in the world last year, due in part to popularity among the Chinese diaspora.
The programme, since concluded, was filmed at Hengdian World Studios in the eastern province of Zhejiang.
Widely considered “China’s Hollywood”, the sprawling studio complex has around a dozen film sets including faux versions of Beijing’s Forbidden City and, soon, Shanghai’s Bund riverfront.
Around 70 percent of China’s film and television shows are shot there, Chinese newspaper Economic Observer reported in 2017.
But studio chairman Sang Xiaoqing told AFP in an interview that Hengdian is bracing for a slowdown, particularly after tax authorities late last year targeted A-list actress Fan Bingbing in a crackdown on alleged widespread tax dodging and exorbitant pay for big-name stars.
“Judging from the current situation, (the entertainment industry) will be in the process of slow recovery in 2019,” Sang said.
“Some crew have postponed their shooting plans and some have even cancelled. The business operations of film and television companies were also impacted by the strengthened tax reform.”
Sang said he expects to see a shift to more films or TV programmes focused on the revolution that brought the Communists to power in 1949, particularly as this October will mark the event’s 70th anniversary.
Krypt Chen, a Shanghai-based media analyst, said: “(Government) scrutiny has been stricter year after year since 2016. It was already quite harsh last year and may be even stricter this year.”
China’s film industry earned a record of nearly 61 billion yuan ($9.1 billion) in box-office revenue last year, up nine percent from 2017, state-run Xinhua news agency reported, though growth slowed from the previous year.
Radio and TV revenue, meanwhile, rose 20 percent in 2017.
But the tightened scrutiny has Chinese studios feeling the heat.
Entertainment giant Huayi Brothers Media Corporation’s share price was almost halved last year, and Hengdian stock shed more than 20 percent.
President Xi Jinping is waging a campaign to sanitise media content, which has resulted in a crackdown on art forms like rap, while even tattoos are believed to have been banned from television.
Historical shows like “Yanxi Palace” had seemed safe as they don’t deal with contentious contemporary issues.
But a commentary by Beijing Daily, an official Communist Party newspaper, last month touched off a debate by criticising period dramas for glamorising lavish imperial lifestyles and palace intrigue instead of promoting “the core values of socialism”.
Since then, similar shows appear to have gone into hiatus.
“Yanxi” producer Yu said he felt his show was in line with Xi’s goals of promoting and exporting Chinese culture.
“I think criticism is ok. But please don’t cut (all period dramas) across the board,” he told AFP in a phone interview.
“China finally has a TV show that has been recognised by the world… Why can’t we bring out China’s good, luxurious things and let foreigners pay their respects?”
Hengdian chairman Sang said optimistically the newspaper commentary could result in content with more “positive energy”, while Chen, the analyst, said this will mean more traditional values.
Sang said demand remains high and he expects to see a shift toward better-developed plots, finely tuned production quality, and less reliance on big-name stars.
“There was excessive, bubble-like, investment,” Sang said. “Now, as people become rational and have calmed down, many good companies will have the opportunity to distance themselves from competitors.”
India divertig attention from Spy’s case?
ISLAMABAD: Minister for Water Resources Faisal Vawda has termed the Indian threat to stop the flow of water from eastern rivers to Pakistan a “failed attempt”, just like the Pulwama incident, to divert attention from its failure in the Kulbhushan Jadhav case in International Court of Justice (ICJ).
In his reaction over India’s threat to stop Pakistan’s water, he said India could not blame Pakistan for its failure in the International Court of Justice to prove spy Kulbhushan innocent. As per Indus Water Treaty, India could not stop Pakistan’s water, he added, says a press statement here on Friday.
Describing the threat hilarious and void, he said the Indian government was preparing the ground to seek public support in next election by hurling allegation against Pakistan. “India must keep it in mind that it is a New Pakistan,” Vawda said adding that valiant Armed Forces of Pakistan would give a befitting response if India launched any misadventure. He said India would get nothing from its war hysteria except embarrassment among the comity of the nations.
Pilot drinking delays Japan plane
TOKYO: Japan’s All Nippon Airways said today it was forced to delay a domestic flight earlier this week after a co-pilot failed an alcohol breath test despite new rules.
The case came after Japan introduced fresh regulations to clamp down on alcohol consumption by pilots after several incidents involving flight crew drinking hit the headlines. On Tuesday, the ANA co-pilot was scheduled to fly a Boeing 777 with 322 passengers on board from Kobe in western Japan to Haneda airport in Tokyo.
But he failed a breath test and said he had consumed a can of beer and half a can of a spirit-based drink in his hotel room about six hours before the flight. The flight was delayed by more than an hour while a replacement pilot was found. The airline said in a statement it would deal with the case “rigorously”. It has banned pilots and co-pilots from drinking alcohol up to 24 hours before a flight.
Late last year, a Japan Airlines co-pilot arrested in Britain was jailed for 10 months after being found shortly before a flight with a blood alcohol level almost 10 times the legal limit. He had reportedly consumed two bottles of wine and more than 1.8 liters (nearly four US pints) of beer over six hours on the night before the flight. ANA also revealed last year that a hungover pilot had caused multiple flight delays. Before the rule change in January, Japan had no legal limits on drinking by plane crew members before flights, and breath testing was not required.
S. Korea to begin 5G service in March
SEOUL: South Korea’s finance minister said today that Seoul will become the first country in the world to start commercial operations of fifth-generation mobile network services next month.
Hong Nam-ki made the announcement at a meeting with senior officials on innovation-led growth in Seoul. KT Corp., South Korea’s leading wireless and fixed-line services provider, carried out a world first
trial service of its 5G system during the PyeongChang Winter Olympics last year. 5G data transmission speeds are 40-50 times faster than the existing 4G network or long-term evolution (LTE) and are expected to open a wide range of new business opportunities for the communication service sector.
The system, moreover, allows greater numbers of people to communicate with each other at the same time and promises to open vast markets for devices and services. The finance minister also said KT and two other local competitors – SK Telecom Co. and LG Uplus Inc. – will invest some 3 trillion won (US$2.6 billion) this year to set up seamless 5G connectivity in the country going forward.