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China Vows to Fight Against TV Drama Corruption
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Censors collecting unwarranted fees from TV play producers would be severely punished, an official with China's television watchdog said on Wednesday in response to a heated discussion online over the existence of bribery in the country's censorship.

Li Jingsheng, director of the TV drama administration bureau under the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (SARFT), said he "will not respond to Wang Shuo's personal statement in his blog."

However, he said in an online interview that "once proved, censors collecting unwarranted fees from TV play producers will be strictly dealt with."

Wang Shuo, a popular Chinese writer, recently said in his blog that the official TV drama censors have collected unauthorized fees from producers. His statement has sparked fierce debate on the internet.

According to Wang, since the 1990s TV stations in China have had groups that censor TV drama and weed out "vulgar" plays. The groups are usually composed of "retired or senior artists."

However the groups became more powerful and could soon decide whether or not to screen a drama. After 1997, producers found themselves having to bribe the censors with "censorship fees" in order to obtain a green light for their play, Wang said.

According to regulations, the SARFT and its provincial subordinates are responsible for censoring TV dramas in their jurisdictions. Censorship-related expenses are covered by their administrative budget.

"The SARFT and most of its provincial subordinates strictly obey the rules," Li said.

However, there are a few provincial agencies that fail to follow the rules, he said, partly because there were so few TV dramas produced in their region that they had not yet established censor groups or a budget.

This lead to a situation in which the censors' expenses -- including premises, accommodation and service charges -- were covered by the TV play producers, Li said.

In September 2006, the SARFT issued a circular, demanding that its provincial subordinates improve their mechanisms including budget mechanisms, according to Li.

Chinese director Ye Jing was quoted by a local newspaper as saying that he paid more than 100,000 yuan (US$13,000) of "censorship fees" for a TV play which was censored three times but did not get a green light at the end.

Some insiders have replied that what Wang Shuo is referring to is by no means a mainstream phenomenon.

(Xinhua News Agency June 21, 2007)

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