China banned reality talent programmes Thursday and ordered broadcasters to promote more masculine representations of men, in a wide-ranging crackdown on “immoral” pop culture Beijing believes is leading young people astray.

Talent shows that put hundreds of aspiring young performers through rigorous boot camps and subject them to public votes have become massively popular in China, sparking criticism over obsessive fans and poor role models.

Photo: Wikicommons.

“Broadcast and TV institutions must not screen idol development programmes or variety shows and reality shows,” China’s broadcast regulator, the National Radio and Television Administration said, in a raft of new regulations.

The regulator ordered broadcasters to resist “abnormal aesthetics” such as “sissy” men, “vulgar influencers”, stars’ inflated pay and performers with “lapsed morals”.

Faced with falling birth rates, Chinese authorities have tried to instil traditional masculine values in the country’s youth by ramping up gym classes and criticising male entertainers who model the effeminate looks of Korean pop idols. 

Instead, broadcasters were urged to “strongly promote outstanding traditional Chinese culture… and advanced socialist culture.”

Popular Chinese blogger Feng Xiaoyi had his account suspended by Douyin — China’s version of TikTok — last week for “promoting unhealthy values”, after some users complained about his “sissy” videos. 

Video streaming site iQiyi last week said it would cancel all future idol talent shows that are in development. 

Authorities began a wide-ranging crackdown on dodgy financial practices and “immoral” conduct in the entertainment sector after numerous scandals implicated some of the nation’s biggest entertainers in recent months.

Chinese actress Zheng Shuang was fined the equivalent of $46 million for tax evasion last week, while Chinese-Canadian pop star and former idol Kris Wu has been detained on rape allegations. 

At the same time, regulators have vowed to curb the behaviours of China’s “chaotic” fandoms, such as what they deem to be irrational celebrity worship. 

Beijing TV regulators abruptly took the massively popular idol talent show “Youth With You 3” off air in May, after fans resorted to buying and dumping massive quantities of yoghurt to vote for their favourite contestants.

Such shows often urge fans to buy sponsored products in order to vote, but the new regulations ban this practice. 

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