China limits TV stars’ huge salaries in latest celebrity culture crackdown

China has tightened a rule clamping down on huge salaries for TV stars in its latest crackdown on celebrity culture following an outcry over an actress’ $25million salary.

Plans for the next five years of television productions, published by the National Radio and Television Administration, have capped actor salaries at 40% of the total production budget.

The plans, which were released this week, also specify that a lead actor’s salary cannot exceed 70% of the total earnings of the entire cast, South China Morning Post reported.

It is the latest move in Beijing’s crackdown on celebrity culture, which has notably banned its celebrities from showing off their wealth on social media.

The television pay crackdown follows last year’s public outcry when it was revealed that top actress Zheng Shuang received a $25 million salary for her appearance on a television series.

China tightened a rule clamping down on huge salaries for TV stars in its latest crackdown on celebrity culture following an outcry over Zheng Shuang’s $25million salary (pictured)

The branch of the national authority in Beijing has been ordered to investigate after it was alleged that the TV production team broke cost proportion rules, according to local reports. The show’s total budget was unclear.

Shuang was also fined £34million by authorities in Beijing for tax evasion between 2019 and 2020, and producers have been ordered not to hire her again.

In 2018, the TV show Ruyi’s Royal Love in the Palace saw Taiwanese actor Huo Jianhua and actress Zhou Xun paid $7.8 million each out of a total production cost of $47.1 million.

New actors and referral agencies who evade taxes or sign “yin-yang contracts,” contracts commonly used in Chinese showbiz to hide actors’ actual salaries, will be treated seriously.

In December, ‘Chinese live-streaming queen’ Viya was fined £160million for tax evasion as part of Beijing’s widespread crackdown on celebrity culture.

The internet celebrity, whose real name is Huang Wei, was fined for concealing personal income and other offenses in 2019 and 2020, according to the tax office in Hangzhou, a city in southern China.

The e-commerce livestreamer, which has more than 18 million followers on Weibo and more than 80 million subscribers on Taobao, apologized at the time.

“I am deeply sorry for my violations of tax laws and regulations,” she said on her Weibo account. “I fully accept the sanction imposed by the tax authorities.”

Viya, 36, is the latest celebrity live streamer to be caught up in a sweeping crackdown that targeted tech monopolies but continued to target private education, social media platforms and celebrity culture.

In December, 'Chinese live-streaming queen' Viya (pictured) was fined £160million for tax evasion as part of Beijing's widespread crackdown on celebrity culture

In December, ‘Chinese live-streaming queen’ Viya (pictured) was fined £160million for tax evasion as part of Beijing’s widespread crackdown on celebrity culture

Viya is known for its ability to sell “anything” by broadcasting live on the Taobao Live platform.

Last year, best actress Zheng Shuang was hit with a £34million tax fine by authorities in Beijing and producers were ordered not to hire her again.

Shanghai tax authorities fined Shuang in August for tax evasion and undeclared income between 2019 and 2020 while filming a TV drama, according to an online statement.

Zheng, 30, became a household name in China after starring in the 2009 hit remake of the Taiwanese drama “Meteor Shower,” and a string of hit series and movies thereafter.

China’s public broadcasting regulator also pulled Zheng’s offending TV series and ordered producers not to hire him for future shows.

The State Administration of Radio, Film and Television added that it had “zero tolerance” for tax evasion, “exorbitant salaries” and “yin-yang contracts”.

Prior to the sweeping crackdown, tax evasion had already sunk the careers of several well-known figures in the entertainment industry.

Last year, two e-commerce livestreaming influencers were reportedly investigated for personal tax evasion and fined nearly 100 million yuan. Their live streaming services have since shut down.

The state tax administration issued a notice in September, announcing measures to strengthen tax administration in the entertainment sector, including live streamers.

The bureau said anyone who reports and corrects tax-related wrongdoings would be given a lighter sentence or even exempted from punishment. More than 1,000 people had taken the initiative to pay back taxes, according to state media.

Beijing is on a mission to curb what it calls “chaotic fan culture” and celebrity binge following a series of scandals in recent months that have taken down China’s biggest artists, including singer Kris Wu, who was arrested on suspicion of rape earlier this year.

Zheng Shuang (pictured in January 2021) has been hit with a £34million tax fine by authorities in Beijing and producers have been ordered not to hire her again

Zheng Shuang (pictured in January 2021) has been hit with a £34million tax fine by authorities in Beijing and producers have been ordered not to hire her again

As part of the widespread crackdown, China has banned its celebrities from showing off their wealth on social media.

China’s Cyberspace Administration has announced that celebrities in the country will not be allowed to “show off their wealth” or “extravagant pleasure” on social media.

The rules also prevent celebrities from posting false or private information, provoking fans against other fan groups and spreading rumours.

Additionally, Business Insider reported that celebrities’ and fans’ social media accounts should uphold “public order and good customs, adhere to the correct guidance of public opinion and the guidance of values, promote core socialist values ​​and maintaining sound style and taste”.

In September, Chinese celebrities were warned they should “oppose the decadent ideas of money worship, hedonism and extreme individualism” at an entertainment industry symposium held by the Communist Party.

The Beijing meeting was held under the slogan: “Love the party, love the country, uphold morality and art.”

It brought together senior party officials and show business bosses who were told they had to abide by social ethics, personal morality and family values.

China views the culture of fame and the pursuit of wealth as a dangerous Western import that threatens communism because it promotes individualism rather than collectivism.

Conference attendees were told to “consciously abandon vulgar and kitschy inferior tastes and consciously oppose the decadent ideas of money worship, hedonism and extreme individualism”, according to the state media.

In August, references to movie star Zhao Wei (pictured in 2017) were scrubbed from video streaming sites as Beijing steps up its campaign against celebrity culture

In August, references to movie star Zhao Wei (pictured in 2017) were scrubbed from video streaming sites as Beijing steps up its campaign against celebrity culture

State media have sprung up demanding changes in China’s entertainment culture.

“For some time now, the moral failures and violations of the law of entertainers, younger idol culture and ‘chaotic’ fandoms have attracted widespread attention in society,” state broadcaster CCTV Plus said. early this year.

“We must give the public a clean and upright literary and artistic environment.”

In August, references to movie star Zhao Wei, a hugely popular actress also known as Vicky Zhao, were removed from video streaming sites.

Her name was suddenly removed from the credits of major TV dramas, while a forum dedicated to the actress on social media platform Weibo was also mysteriously shut down, with the hashtag “Zhao Wei super topic closed” recorded. 850 million views.

No official reason was given.

But Zhao and her husband were banned from trading on the Shanghai Stock Exchange earlier this year, due to a failed takeover bid in 2016 that authorities said had “disrupted the market order. “.

China’s cyber regulator last year issued regulations banning celebrity ranking lists and tightening control over fan clubs and “chaotic” celebrity management agencies.

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