China pulls two shows from Youku streaming platform

The Chinese version of Saturday Night Live and a variety show entitled Tell Me The Truth! Spending Money On Everything have been pulled from streaming platform Youku without a clear explanation.

Chinese news portal Sina Entertainment quoted an anonymous industry sider saying: “Both shows are under review due to their content.”

Saturday Night Live, produced by Youku and NBC, had launched on June 23 and only aired three episodes before being pulled last weekend. The show’s Weibo account said, “We are striving to improve ourselves to live up to your expectations. Remember to laugh when we meet again!” But there was no mention of a return date.

Tell Me The Truth!Spending Money On Everything (rough translation of zhēnxiàng ba! huāhuā wànwù) is a talk show hosted by Taiwanese celebrities Kevin Tsai and Dee Hsu. Its official Weibo account responded to a concerned netizen by saying, “Don’t worry. We are working on it.”

Saturday Night Live had been mild in its humour and satirical content compared to its US counterpart, touching on issues such as feminism and women’s place in Chinese society, but staying clear of politics.

The cancellations follow a notice on July 10 from China’s media regulator, the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television (SAPPRFT), ordering streaming platforms to reduce their output of reality talent shows, especially those that involve the public paying to vote for their favourite contestants.

Regulators appear particularly concerned about the content of online programming during the summer months when young children and teenagers are on holiday. The notice stressed that online productions should promote “positive energy and socialist core values”.

The notice also said that singing and talent competition shows should be adjusted to prevent the spread of “money worship, hedonism and the eagerness for instant success and quick profits”.

Chinese authorities have also expressed concern about the values in China’s growing hip-hop culture, following the huge success of iQiyi talent show The Rap Of China. However, pulling a satirical comedy show such as Saturday Night Live suggests regulators are also cracking down on other kinds of content.

SAPPRFT also recently said it would provide funds for TV dramas that portray the country’s revolutionary martyrs and heroes in a positive light. Chinese live-streaming app Douyin and search engine Sogou were recently ordered to take down ads that insulted “heroic deeds and spirit”.