The latest debate today on Weibo: Should China can the televised Spring Festival Gala?
Here’s a debate you might want to think a little about… Since 1983, China has been celebrating Chinese New Year with the annual Spring Festival Gala, which in the first years were something very new that drew huge audiences.
As of late, however, the show has found itself in a bit of a bind. In the 2000s, younger audiences favoured something different — yours truly caught wind of both an Internet variant and even a shanzhai variant of the show — and the old ways of using the show as “entertainment propaganda for Beijing” seem to have started to fail. In a desperate attempt to “win back” audiences, the show resorted to using more “teen-friendly” language which included much of what’s used on the Chinese Internet (“netspeak”). Unfortunately, this has estranged the show from its “traditional” audience — “old people”, if we’re allowed to refer to it this way.
On Weibo Discussions (link in Chinese), then, the talk today was whether or not we still needed this Gala, now in its 31st year. Costs of upward of CNY 500 million are needed to pull off the show, which starts at 22:00 and ends just around 01:00 the next day. For the same amount f cash, 1,250 “hope schools” for up to 167,000 disadvantaged students could be built.
This is a particularly heated topic under discussion as the show airs in the evening hours of Chinese New Year’s Eve, which beginning from this year is no longer a national holiday. This move, met by the Li Keqiang-led Chinese State Council, has proven to be unpopular. Those taking part in the debate call for the Gala to be done away with — especially as New Year’s Eve has also been “done away with” this year.
As this post is being published, those in favour of abolishing the Spring Festival Gala seem to dominate the talk: there are 16,509 votes in favour of abolishment versus a mere 6,053 in favour of keeping the Gala. The show has, as previously, been grilled as being too political for an otherwise arts-centred show. Interestingly, the debate is being moderated by Phoenix TV. Whilst not considered “opposition TV” in China, the Hong Kong-based channel is still considered as a somewhat worthy alternative to government-run Central TV.