January 8, 2008 / 3:44 AM / 12 years ago

China skirts TV ban with "top model" reality show

BEIJING, Jan 8 (Reuters) - A Chinese cable television station debuts its own version of “America’s Next Top Model” on Sunday despite a clampdown on racy programming, state media reported on Tuesday.

China keeps a tight grip on its state-owned broadcasters, but market reforms have spawned increasingly outrageous shows to attract viewers and advertising revenue.

The launch of Sichuan Cable TV’s “China’s Next Top Model” arrives after the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television ordered a ban on reality shows with “vulgar content” from prime-time hours — 7.30 pm to 10.30 pm.

The new show will air at 10.30 pm to beat the ban.

“The (clampdown) order came shortly after the administration banned the Chongqing TV programme ‘the First Heartthrob’ for its vulgar content and bad taste,” Xinhua news agency said.

“The move was also seen as a warning to domestic TV stations competing for public attention with copycat shows that lacked creativity.”

In the new show, judges will choose aspiring models from a group of contestants over several weeks. Among the backers were CBS Paramount and China eWorld Interactive Co., Xinhua said.

This is not the first time that a successful U.S. reality show has been transplanted to China.

“Super Girls”, China’s latest take on the “American Idol” TV series, was a smash hit on Hunan Satellite TV that amassed more than 400 million viewers for its final round and has spawned many copycats on domestic stations.

Despite the mass appeal of “Super Girls”, the show sparked public debate after a former vice-minister of culture described it as vulgar and degrading.

Last week, China censors banned the makers of steamy “Lost in Beijing” from making movies on the mainland for two years after an unapproved version of the film screened at the Berlin Film Festival. (Reporting by Beijing Newsroom; Editing by Nick Macfie and Jerry Norton)

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