Speaking at the Chinese government’s National People’s Congress, a Chinese television host and Congress deputy questioned and criticized state-run TV programs about the factuality of their ratings. Implicit in his skepticism were veiled criticisms of mainland Chinese media generally.
At an NPC meeting held on March 8, deputy Zhang Zequan, well-known as a host for the state-run China Central Television (CCTV), stated that program ratings have been “polluted” by profit-seeking behavior.
“All of today’s advertising refers to television ratings,” Zhang said at the opening session of the NPC meeting, as reported by the state-run Hnr.cn.
Zhang also expressed worries about what he sees as the deteriorating quality of content in Chinese TV programs. He called out producers on their single-minded obsession with ratings that had led to poor taste, lack of creativity, rampant mimicry of foreign ideas devoid of originality, and a sore lack of more traditional or Chinese styles.
Zhu Xinxin, formerly an editor at the state-run Hebei People’s Radio Station, echoed Zhang’s statements about fake ratings.
“It’s no secret anymore that TV stations use bribes to raise their ratings,” Zhu told New Tang Dynasty Television, which is based in New York City. He said that Chinese programming has long been in the pockets of vested interests, making their ratings untrustworthy in the eyes of the audiences. Some programs, such as CCTV news broadcasts, enjoy near monopolies on all channels at certain hours of the day.
The four-hour-long CCTV Chinese New Year Gala is ensured a veritable captive audience of 700 million viewers. The program covers 180 channels in mainland China, essentially squeezing out all alternative broadcasting.
TV ratings in China are conducted by a supposedly third-party firm called CSM Media. Suspecting corruption, however, Zhang Zequn said that ratings could be bought and sold.
“There are people who pay for the rank of general [in the military],” Zhang said. “Are there people who pay for higher ratings? I don’t care if you believe it or not, I believe there are such people.”