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China sets minimum age for TV contestants
Updated: 2006-03-15 19:07

Contestants on China's increasingly popular TV talent shows must now be at least 18 years old under new rules posted by central broadcast regulators Tuesday, highlighting Beijing's concerns about TV's influence on minors.

The move by the State Administration of Radio Film and Television (SARFT) follows a January 1 law prohibiting the sale of alcohol to minors, and comes not long after underage contestants from last year's smash hit TV talent show, "Super Girl Voice," helped advertise a strong Chinese liquor called "baijiu."

When "Super Girl" drew China's biggest-ever television audience in July 2005, many of the singing contestants were not yet 18. This year's installment of the show from Hunan Satellite TV -- now awaiting SARFT approval -- will follow the new rule.

"We'll consider the age limit for this year's show, which will be targeted mainly at college students," one of the show's producers told the Shanghai Daily.

In the seven plus months since Li Yuchun, 21, won the second annual "Super Girl" contest, she has rocketed to the No. 6 spot on the Forbes list of China's hottest and richest celebrities.

SARFT traditionally dictates what's allowed on Chinese TV, and some observers say that the imposition of the age minimum is designed to check materialism among the country's 370 million youngsters.

Clouding the Super Girls' success last year, local newspapers ran stories about teenage girls who fled rural poverty to audition for TV talent shows in big cities, leaving behind their families and their work or their studies.

SARFT said TV talent contests should not overshadow other programming, and producers of such shows should take care to uphold appropriate standards of dress and hairstyle among contestants.

"Super Girl" winner Li was the subject of wide public debate last year for her androgynous fashion sense and gravelly voice. Only one of the three top "Super Girl" finalists chose to wear her hair long, don a skirt and use makeup.

TV contests for those below 18 will only be allowed with official approval, SARFT said.

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