How to improve Chinese TV? Better censorship, says top tellie-maker

Sales are down at home and poor compared to other nations

The founder and chairman of Chinese electronics maker TCL has taken the bold step of suggesting China's censors "improve" their work, to help his company sell more televisions ... and help China succeed at home and abroad.

Li Dongsheng's exhortation was bold because he voiced it during the recent National People's Congress – China's rubberstamp parliament in which he sits as a deputy in recognition of his stewardship of the partially state owned TCL.

As translated by the Pekingology blog – which is run by a Chinese journalist who shares notable goings-on inside his homeland – Li pointed out that China has previously implemented industry plans to grow its display industry with some success.

China's TV market is dominated by local players, which – led by Hisense, Xiaomi, and TCL – account for 90 percent of local sales. Chinese tellies have even won a quarter of the US market.

But Li noted sales are going backwards in China, but growing in the US and other markets. He also cited data that indicates Chinese citizens use their tellies less often than folks in other countries.

Li suggested China's censors may be to blame because they make it hard to create compelling content.

He put it less bluntly than that, suggesting it might be time to "improve the review system for film and television works, and stimulate the innovative vitality of the cultural film and television industry."

Another suggestion was to foster privately funded film and television product houses, with the goal of making some globally competitive.

That's a playbook China used to propel outfits like Tencent to strong positions in the global gaming market, even as Beijing continues to frown on domestic gamers – especially minors.

Li also wants China to export more of its cultural content.

Doing so won't just help TCL to sell more screens. It has the potential to grow China's "soft power" – a diplomatic term that describes the benefits of a nation's cultural influence.

Hollywood made the US a soft power superpower – even in China – and the UK punches above its weight. Japan and South Korea are soft power giants, thanks to their film, games, television, comics and pop music.

Until this week, audiences outside China may have struggled to think of a single Chinese cultural product they admire. Maybe this week's Netflix debut of Chinese sci-fi epic The Three Body Problem, based on a novel of the same name, will change that.

Or maybe not. A China-only TV series based on the novel and its sequels debuted last year, and appears not to have made a difference to the decline in TV-watching Li decried. ®

More about


Send us news

Other stories you might like