BEIJING (Reuters) - Many of the television shows, movies and publications produced in China each year are rubbish, and the solution is to banish decadent themes and concentrate on uplifting social values instead, a senior government minister has said.
China's ruling Communist Party exercises tight control of the media, seeing it as a valuable propaganda tool, and has long sought to ensure content is both non-controversial and morally correct.
Cai Fuchao, who heads the State Administration for Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television and is also a deputy propaganda minister, said China produces about 600 movies, 15,000 television shows and 250,000 publications annually.
"Quality, powerful works are still lacking, and there are only a tiny number of classic works which can reflect the times and leave an impression on history," Cai wrote in the influential fortnightly Communist Party magazine Qiushi, which means "seeking truth".
"Although quantity shows the vitality of artistic production in any historical period, it cannot hide the fact that there is a structural problem with overproduction and the mediocre quality of film, television and publishing creation."
Artists should stop being "slaves to the market" and thinking that the only measure of success is the box office, viewing figures or number of copies sold and put "social benefit" first, he wrote in the latest issue, which reached subscribers on Tuesday.
The government must "grasp the correct orientation for politics, values and behavior, and prevent the spread of base, depressing tendencies, materialism and the worship of money", Cai added.
Films and television shows in China have tended to rely on somewhat staid and repetitive topics, such as heroic revolutionaries and ancient historical dramas.
But the entertainment industry no longer depends so heavily on government subsidies and has had to start earning its own way with livelier offerings, especially as it tries to compete with edgier works from Hong Kong, Taiwan and the United States, all widely available online.
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)