Tag Archives: TV

Fan Faces Fine

FAN BINGBING, THE film star not seen in public since June, has been fined 883 million yuan ($130 million) for tax evasion and other offences, state media says. She will avoid criminal charges and prison time if she pays up by a year-end deadline.

Unconfirmed reports in Hong Kong said she has also been banned from working as an actress for three years. It would be unusually for such a ban to be announced by authorities in the absence of a conviction.

A contrite posting appeared on Fan’s Weibo account today, although there is still no indication of her whereabouts.

Her agent remains in detention as a broad investigation into entertainment celebrities’ tax affairs continues. Fan was the highest earning Chinese celebrity last year with an income of 300 million yuan, according to Forbes magazine’s reckoning.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Arts & Culture, Media, Politics & Society, Uncategorized

China’s Film Industry Loses A Fan

IT WOULD NOT be too idle speculation to connect the non-appearance in public of the film star Fan Bingbing these many weeks to the suggestion that the anti-corruption crackdown has reached the heart of the media and entertainment industries.

Her studio as denied the accusation that Fan was using what is known in the trade as ‘yin-and-yang’ contracts — two versions of the contract for an engagement of which the one showing the lower fee is the one intended for the taxman. Their use has been widespread in real estate transactions for at least a decade, not that that makes them any less illegal.

There is, it should be said, no hard evidence either way on which to judge the scuttlebutt that tax evasion was Fan’s ‘crime’, for which, some reports say, she has been arrested, while others suggest, less credibly, that she has fled to the United States to seek asylum. Fan’s public silence would, however, seem to tell its own story.

China’s highest-paid actress did, however, score zero on a recently released ranking of entertainers based on their social responsibility scores. Those can be regarded as a precursor to the ‘social credit’ system now being trialled with the aim of introducing it nationwide by 2020. Low scores could mean for an actor denial of the state licenses they need to work, and provide an easy excuse to film and TV programme makers not to offer parts.

Fan has already been dropped by sponsors, a sure sign she has fallen out of favour with authorities.

Catching tigers as well as flies is a characteristic of President Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption campaign. In June, authorities put limits on the pay of star actors, in part to crack down on tax evasion but also as part of the broader campaign against conspicuous wealth. The pay of actors in Chinese films and TV programmes was capped at 40% of the total production costs, with lead actors limited to 70% of the actors’ pool.

Authorities are also worried about the impact of stars on young Chinese, who are at risk, they fear, of chasing celebrity and “distorted social values” — for which read Western values — rather than following the Party endorsed pursuit Chinese values.

TV dramas last year were instructed to ‘enhance people’s cultural taste’ and ‘strengthen spiritual civilisation’ — strictures that came with a new set of rules governing the programmes’ content.

Reviving Chinese culture is a core strand of President Xi Jinping’s vision of ‘’the Chinese dream’, as is a very particular view of how China will project itself abroad through Chinese values.

The arts have long been seen as a part of the Party’s ideological leadership, with artists, in all realms of the arts, expected to create works that are not only artistic but also politically inspiring. Those are to serve to promote socialist values in line with the Party’s agenda.

Artistic dissent can have no place in that, much as dissent is being cracked down on in a variety of areas from the social sciences to civil society.

The Beijing Trade Association for Performances, which in 2014 took a leading role in the authorities’ crackdown on performing artists alleged to be involved with drug-taking and prostitution, now says it will ‘purify’ the city’s entertainment and performance sector and guide artists towards ‘core socialist values’.

The entertainment industry poses a particular problem in that fandom around TV, movie and music stars creates a potential point of political power that is youth-based, unpredictable and weakly subject to Party control, all characteristics for which the Party does not care.

Leave a comment

Filed under Arts & Culture, Media, Politics & Society

China’s TV And Film Industries: Unexploited Soft Power

A report crosses this Bystander’s desk from Oxford Economics, a consultancy commissioned to quantify the economic impact of China’s film and TV industries. The commission comes from the Motion Picture Association of America, Hollywood’s lobbying arm, and the China Film Distributors and Exhibitors Association. It is, no doubt, intended as an opportune prod in the direction of more opening of China’s domestic film and TV markets by emphasizing the potential for growth at a time when boosting cultural industries and “going out” is to the forefront 0f Beijing’s mind.

The reports lays out quite how significant, fast-growing, and promising the industry is — as would be expected in a country with a large population, strong economic growth and rising incomes. Oxford Economics tots up for 2011 a 100 billion yuan ($15.5 billion) contribution to GDP, 909,000 jobs and 22 billion yuan in tax revenue from the industry directly.

Taking into account the multiplier effect across the rest of the economy, the report boosts those numbers to a 272 billion yuan contribution to GDP, 4.5 million jobs and 57 billion yuan in tax revenues. That later GDP number is equivalent to 0.6% of total GDP, similar to the contributions of  the computer and telecoms equipment industries. Where the film and TV industries are much different is in their level of exports. Total exports in 2011, Oxford Economics reckons, were 2.3 billion yuan, 90% of which was accounted for by film. The telecoms equipment makers did more than 10 times as much each quarter.

Cultural exports are these days a central part of a country’s soft power — as Hollywood’s bear testament, just as much as do China’s tight quotas on foreign film imports. While the leadership in Beijing is now paying more attention to this aspect of China’s global projection of itself, China has not been able to convert its popular arts and culture into an arm of diplomacy in the way that, say, its neighbour South Korea has. Hallyu,  a mix of popular South Korean films, TV, food and K-pop music culminating in the Gangnam-style phenomenon, has proven to be an extraordinary calling card for the country. South Korea has risen to 11th on Monocle magazine’s annual ranking of soft power, a list on which China doesn’t make the top 20.

It has also made South Korea a destination for cultural tourists, particularly from the rest of the region. What little film and TV tourism there is in China is local and localized. That is a hugely untapped opportunity, the Oxford Economics report suggests, treading safe ground rather than venturing into the deeper waters of exporting cultural values and projecting soft power. In the same vein, it casts the impact of hallyu in the light of domestic tourism within South Korea.

The unsaid part highlights another difference between South Korea and China, whose state-planned cultural exports have focused on traditional high-culture aspects of China’s arts and heritage, as might be expected of programmes devised by government officials and intellectuals. South Korea’s cultural image is very much a reflection of its contemporary and popular culture, which is driven, for better or worse, by a commercial market. China, where even popular TV is sanitized for social correctness, doesn’t have such a readily accessible and identifiable non-political contemporary culture, or the rambunctious marketplace to nurture it.

Leave a comment

Filed under Politics & Society

TV Ads And Subtractions In China’s Cultural Reform

The ban on TV ads during dramas and films running longer than 45 minutes that China’s propaganda chiefs are imposing from January is aiming at the wrong target if the purpose is to bring the country’s increasingly money-grubbing media to heel. While TV advertising now accounts for three-fifths of China’s total advertising market, it is the rapid growth of digital media that is making China one of the fastest growing advertising markets in the world. MEC China, part of the WPP media agency empire, forecasts a 17% jump in ad expenditures to $63 billion next year, driven by companies trying to reach the online “Me Generation”.

For the past couple of years, the industry’s regulator, the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television, has been snipping away at successful mass entertainment programs shown on the country’s proliferation of TV stations. It has restricted the time allowed for ads between and during programs, and leaned on broadcasters to show more culturally uplifting programming. As in many aspects of life, when it comes to cultural reform, a proxy for the desire to develop soft power around national cultural identity, the Party’s say-so is competing against more and more alternative voices. Hence the propaganda department’s attempts to guide market forces to impose the necessary drive for the promotion of the cultural values that it wants to see. However, though there will be some early disruption as TV ad campaigns for the new year have already been bought, the longer-term outcome is likely to be that money that would have gone to TV advertising will just move online rather than new culturally correct domestic programming will be created to keep it on TV, let alone fill the gaps created by its departure.

Leave a comment

Filed under Media