Chinese state broadcaster CCTV released a report on the morning of February 6 summarizing how the 2019 Spring Festival Gala performed in terms of viewership and audience response.
The report gives the official narrative of this year’s rendition of the show, which began in 1983 and has often been the world’s biggest television event by audience numbers. To absolutely no one’s surprise, but in apparent contradiction to much of the snark about it on Chinese social media, the 2019 gala was allegedly “record-breaking” and has received overwhelmingly positive feedback.
According to the report (in Chinese), the show attracted a staggering 1.17 billion viewers across the globe. That’s up around 4 percent compared with the 2016 gala, which had 1.13 billion viewers. Meanwhile, CCTV noted that around 96.98 percent of all the online comments about the show are positive, which made this year’s gala one of the most well received editions in recent years.
Impressive numbers, huh? Let’s hit pause here to give the 96.98 percent number a closer look. The report actually doesn’t elaborate on how many netizens are surveyed, what counted as positive feedback, or what was the most popular act of the night. For those who need a quick recap on how the gala turned out, all I can say is that the vast majority of the performances were pure garbage, with only a few brights spot buried in there. (We dig this Shaolin act!) The songs, mostly performed by pop stars with no talent, were irredeemably bad. The sketches were nowhere near as funny and sharp as they used to be. Even the magic show was later exposed as an outrageous lie that no real magician would approve of.
Maybe I’m in the minority. Maybe I haven’t spent enough time online to get a precise sense of the overall reaction. Maybe I’m hanging out with the “wrong” crowd, which has a tendency to complain about the show. But my skepticism of the number’s authenticity seems to echo the sentiments of many other people on the Chinese internet.
Below is a collection of responses to the news:
“They grade themselves every year.”
“What’s the source of this number?”
“If it’s true, we are witnessing a miracle.”
“What a joke.”
“Let’s make sure 97% of the comments about this news are positive. Let’s work together to make the internet a space of positive energy.”
“Every year, they deceive themselves.”
“They are leaving some room for improvement next year.”
In addition, a Weibo account resembling the Onion wrote the following satirical post:
“Clarification: The rumor about 96.98% positive feedback has been identified as fake news by us after our careful investigation. The number is 100%!”
Last year, after the show concluded, Sina Weibo banned users from searching for “Spring Festival Gala complaints” (春晚吐槽 chūnwǎn tǔcáo). This year, criticism is allowed on the internet, but it’s clear that the institution behind the show has walled itself off from honest feedback. As an old Chinese proverb goes, “You can never wake up a person who is pretending to sleep.” I’d suggest people stop investing in this show altogether. Just let the gala operate in an alternate universe, where its fantasy audience will be pleased at whatever garbage it pulls off.