And Finally

No kidding

China bans stars’ children from reality TV shows

Girl w

Wang Baoqiang with daughter

To show that celebrities are no different when it comes to the challenges of parenthood, Dad, Where Are We Going, a reality TV series that debuted in 2013, sent five famous fathers with their young children to the countryside to compete in contests.

“I have only been taking care of my son for three full days, and I feel like breaking down,” revealed Guo Tao, an actor who appeared in the first season of the show. “I can’t imagine how my wife managed to do this for the past six years.”

Three seasons on, the show, which is aired on Hunan Satellite TV, has remained a big hit with audiences (see WiC213 for our initial mention of it). The first episode of the latest season attracted more than 75 million viewers (not including those who tuned in online). The franchise is so successful that it has led to a spin-off movie and multiple parenting books.

Some of the children on the show have also become stars. A few have gone on to sign endorsement deals and start their own acting careers. It has even spawned a new buzzword: xingerdai, or offspring of the stars (versus guanerdai, children of government officials and fuerdai, second generation rich).

But Dad, Where Are We Going will not be going on much longer – despite still being an audience favourite. China’s media regulator last week announced a new ban on reality TV formats featuring celebrity kids. According to Xinhua, the ban requires reality programmes to be “strictly controlled” so the children can “enjoy the childhoods they are entitled to”.

Ma Xue, a television producer, told the New York Times that the broadcast regulator issued the new guidelines “because they don’t want people to see differences between classes. On these shows, if you are the child of a celebrity, then you become a celebrity by birth”.

Some newspapers were supportive of the ban. Xinmin Daily says producers purposely put the children in distressing situations. For instance, in the last season, a father has to pretend to be beheaded in front of his daughter before she rushes over to ‘rescue’ him. Even though she successfully completes the task, the little girl looks shaken afterwards.

“That plot is just outright cruel, crossing an ethical line,” says the newspaper. “They shouldn’t call it a reality TV show because there’s only show and no reality.”

But industry insiders complain that the recent surge in censorship could drive commercial TV networks out of business. In the past few weeks the regulators have banned dramas from depicting gay people, adultery and showing people drinking booze (see WiC316). Before that, time-travel dramas were banned. And earlier still, dating shows that were deemed to promote materialism were purged.

Hunan Satellite TV is likely to be the big loser this time. It was already far into the production of the fourth season of Dad, Where Are We Going, which was due to air this summer.


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