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Crime stories disappear from prime time
By Xin Dingding (China Daily)
Updated: 2004-05-17 08:05

TV programmes telling crime stories have been sidelined from prime time of Chinese mainland TV channels as of this month.

At the same time, the State Administration on Radio, Film and Television banned overseas imports of TV programmes and movies of the same theme .

Currently there is no rating system in the Chinese mainland for movies or TV programmes. Authorities are hoping keeping crime shows out of screens across the country will address many parents' fears.

The administration said the move is designed to "create a healthy cultural environment for youngsters."

The future subsistence of these shows in China, however, may be in a rating system, said experts.

The Hong Kong film "Brother," for example, was banned in the mainland recently due to its bloody plot. Authorities said the film, about fights, thrills and friendships among a group of gangsters, deviates too much from the original play and underscores a theme of injustice.

Young audiences, while saddened, were not deterred, saying they would still be able to purchase pirated copies.

Xinhua reported that illegal VCD and DVD copies of the film have already been found in Guangdong and Fujian provinces, and the administration has ordered the two provinces to take firm action to fight the smuggling.

Some say the easy availability of smuggled copies is another argument for the rating system.

"If China adopts the rating system as some countries have, maybe the film would not be banned and pirates would have no market," said Zhang Hongzheng, 30, a movie fan.

"Now the administration is researching rating systems on both movies and TV programmes, said Wang Weiping, deputy director of TV play department under the administration.

The administration will have a rating system for movies out before one for TV programmes, he added.

"After the whole rating system is completed, China's television channels can develop into two kinds, public television channels and adult television channels... and the TV programmes banned in prime time for violence themes will be accepted by the latter kind of channels," said the official.

But Wang stressed that the adult channels, named only because of the age group of the target audience, will be different from those in other countries and will not be allowed to broadcast programmes playing up too much violence or pornographic content.

At present, television channels, including pay cable and pay digital television, are not restricted on the age group they broadcast for.

TV serials with plots based on crime have proved especially popular in the Chinese mainland in the past several years.

Their negative influence has been highlighted of late as minors simulate TV plots.

The Beijing-based Guangming Daily reported that a 15-year-old boy kidnapped a 5-year-old boy in the neighbourhood and tried to blackmail his parents. When asked why he abducted the boy, the young kidnapper said he just wanted to find out whether the method used in TV series he watched actually worked.

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