China's television watchdog has capped the amount of entertainment programs, including reality TV shows, that satellite channels can broadcast from the start of 2012.
Each of the country's 34 satellite channels will be limited to two such programs each week, said a statement issued Tuesday by the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (SARFT). Under the new directive, a channel can also broadcast a maximum of 90 minutes of content defined as entertainment every day during prime time - 7:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.
The decision is the latest move to curb TV shows of "excessive entertainment" and "low taste", said the statement. Within these brackets are some matchmaker programs, talent contests, talk shows and reality shows.
The watchdog will also control the total number of entertainment shows nationwide. During prime time every day, the 34 channels can only show nine entertainment programs in total, the statement said, adding that channels should increase the number of news programs, educational programs and documentaries.
When all the new rules come into enforcement on January 1, 2012, channels will be required to broadcast at least two hours of news programs between 6 a.m. and midnight. Between 6 p.m. and 11:30 p.m., they must each broadcast at least two 30-minute news programs.
Every channel has also been ordered to create a program that promotes traditional virtues and socialist core values. Many channels were already broadcasting such shows, the statement said.
Channels have been forbidden from taking decisions based purely on audience viewing figures, and directed to place greater emphasis on social values. The SARFT has asked them to set up a comprehensive system to assess both social effect and economic value.
According to the statement, the SARFT has asked its provincial branches to set up special teams to supervise satellite channels in meeting the new requirements.
It warned that those violating the rules would face punishments ranging from formal warnings to suspension of broadcast.