China’s media regulators issue cap on production budget of period dramas

Society & Culture

A few days ago, news broke that the State Administration of Radio and Television (SART) had issued new directives capping the production budget of online period dramas at 8 million RMB ($1.2 million) per episode and contemporary dramas at 6 million RMB ($878,000). The directives also stated that websites that violated authorities’ regulations on star salaries will be stripped of their streaming licenses.

Ever since Chinese TV host Cui Yongyuan 崔永元 exposed on Weibo movie star Fan Bingbing’s 范冰冰 employment contract as well as the prevalence of “yin and yang contracts” in the entertainment industry in late May, the government has strengthened its crackdown on sky-high star salaries. Two months ago, five government agencies, including China’s movie bureau, tax authorities, and the radio and television administration, sent out an announcement capping star salaries at 40% of total production costs. According to the new directives, the pay of leading performers were also not allowed to exceed 70% of the wages of the entire cast.

Fan Bingbing’s exposed contract ignites debate about celebrity salaries

Star salaries isn’t the only thing that has been in the crosshairs of the administration’s latest regulations. In early June, China’s tax bureau launched a tax evasion investigation into the nation’s TV and movie industries. Cui’s Weibo posts have forced the practice of “yin-yang contracts,” a dual contract system that facilitates tax evasion, into the limelight, and the actions led by the government to curb such behavior has reportedly led to the investigations of many studios and the shuttering of one movie marketing company.

Fan Bingbing herself has also been affected by the government’s crackdown on tax evasion and exorbitantly high star salaries. News media have reported that Fan’s company and her associates are currently under investigation. The actress has notably been absent on social media since late June, prompting much concern on social media over her wellbeing.