NOTE: This is an extract from ‘Access China’ report, written by Ed Peto, commissioned by UK Trade and Industry Department and British Underground.
The Chinese government is acutely aware that TV is the most effective medium for delivering key cultural and political messages. China Central Television (CCTV), the state-run national station, operates a range of channels, which, in the main part, are barefaced propaganda and state trumpet blowing. Their large scale, televised music galas showcase traditional and government approved music forms and are regularly watched by audiences in the hundreds of millions. These are the kind of viewing figures that excite people about China but in reality the shows are impregnable fortresses of glittery, spandex-clad state guff.
When Pop Idol imitator ‘SuperGirl’ hit China in 2004, the final was watched by 400 million people. The rush of mobile votes sent the government into a panic and severe restrictions were implemented, preventing the show ever happening in the same format again - The idea of a democratically decided pop show proving too much for a one-party state.
Further down the pecking order, regional TV is a bit more conversational about the idea of coverage but the act really has to be sizeable due to the broad audience - mass appeal rules. You have to go to the foreign owned stations to find recognisable music programming.