Fan Bingbing, Feng Xiaogang, and tax evasion aren’t the only stories currently stirring up a storm in China’s entertainment sector. On September 15, Chinese director and screenwriter Jingyu Guo 郭靖宇 created a furor when he exposed on Weibo the prevalence of fraudulent ratings in China’s TV industry.
According to Guo, it is common practice for TV producers to “buy” fake ratings. The current rates go for around 900,000 RMB ($131,000) per episode, as he learned last year when he was approached by representatives to bolster the ratings of his show Mother’s Life (娘道 niáng dào). If Guo had agreed to purchase such ratings, his production company would have had to pay 72 million RMB ($10.5 million) for doctored ratings for the entire series.
In recent years, fraudulent ratings has become increasingly prevalent as broadcasters, eager to appease advertisers, have pressured TV producers to buy ratings. Some TV networks, according to Guo, will only agree to air your programs after you’ve spent money to guarantee good ratings. In addition to a desire to lure advertisers with higher ratings, another reason producers may be incentivized by broadcasters to buy fake ratings is the distribution agreements between TV stations and production companies in China. In many of these contracts, broadcasters pay producers a higher sum for the shows if the ratings reach a certain threshold.
Guo’s post has caught the attention of China’s media regulator. On September 16, the National Radio and Television Administration responded swiftly to Guo’s accusations by promising they would conduct an investigation into this phenomenon, and that it would “deal with this matter seriously.”