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China’s media watchdog bans children from appearing on reality TV

Chinese reality TV hopefuls under the age of 10 take note; your dreams may have just been dashed.

China’s media watchdog has banned the children of celebrities from appearing on reality television, the official New China News Agency reported Sunday. The State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television (SAPPRFT) decreed that reality shows must be “strictly controlled,” according to the report.

Chinese authorities have tightened controls over the country’s television and online programming in recent years, releasing a slew of regulations to curtail perceived vulgarity and materialism.

In March, another Chinese media regulator -- the TV Production Committee of the China Alliance of Radio, Film and Television -- banned depictions of homosexuality, extramarital affairs and one-night stands on television, classifying them as “harmful to the unity and sovereignty of the country and its territorial integrity.”

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The child-star ban is intended “to remove minors from the limelight and let them enjoy the childhood that they are entitled to,” the New China News Agency reported. The new regulation has not been made publicly available.

The ban is aimed squarely at shows in the “celebrities and their children” genre -- most notably the wildly popular “Dad! Where Are We Going?” a reality show on provincial satellite broadcaster Hunan TV that features celebrities and their children going on camping trips to rural areas.

Based on a South Korean reality TV show, “Dad! Where Are We Going?” debuted in China in 2013; last year, it earned more than $231 million in advertising revenue, accounting for 15% of all the revenue from entertainment programming on all of China’s satellite TV stations combined.

The New China News Agency reported that Hunan TV has canceled the show’s fourth season.

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“Becoming a child star can be extremely harmful, especially if the pursuit of fame is driven by their parents’ desire rather than a conscious decision by the children themselves,” it quoted child psychologist Hou Lixia as saying.

Many Chinese Web users lamented the child-star ban, and expressed ire at the regulator for depriving them of their favorite programming.

Regulators are “stopping people from living off of their parents!” wrote one user on Sina Weibo, China’s version of Twitter.

“I really don’t watch those shows, but [SAPPRFT], why you are everywhere?” wrote another.

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Yingzhi Yang in the Times’ Beijing bureau contributed to this report.


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