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Restrictions Prevent Dialogue About Declining Youth Audience for Xinwen Lianbo Broadcast

Restrictions Prevent Dialogue About Declining Youth Audience for Xinwen Lianbo Broadcast

A Zhihu post asking why younger individuals no longer watch Xinwen Lianbo, China Central Television’s popular news program, was removed by censors. This program has been a top-rated show since 1978, but there is a noticeable difference in viewership among different generations. The censored post on Zhihu exposed reasons such as long work hours, complicated political language, and disappointment with China’s current political and economic state as contributing to the decline in youth viewership of the Chinese Communist Party’s nightly news broadcast.

@大海捞真:When I was younger, Xinwen Lianbo would come on just as we were sitting down for family dinner. After it finished, we’d wash the dishes while listening to the weather report. By the 8:00 p.m. “golden hour,” we’d settle in to watch the shows … Nowadays, I’m not even off work by the time Xinwen Lianbo airs.

@祖如慧:[Xinwen Lianbo] just repeats the same few phrases over and over again: implement, follow up, emphasize, execute, optimize, standardize, rectify, unify, better, deepen, perfect, transform, innovate, grow, suggest, pay close attention to, vigorously, adequately, in-depth, mechanism, achievements, crack down on, ideology, conduct.

@Yuzu: The disasters outside of our country do not affect me, and the progress being made domestically is not something I have personally witnessed, so…

@BeichenMoon: The initial 25 minutes are fantastic, magnificent, and accurate. However, the final five minutes only discuss disasters occurring in different countries. Please stop liking this, it’s frightening. I am curious about the comments, but many seem to have been censored…

@LookAtYou: It has consistently only stated one fact for many years: “Today’s date is …”

The aversion of young people towards Xinwen Lianbo has been a long-standing issue, as seen in the 2014 song “You Liar” by Chongqing rapper 小艾EYE (Xiǎo Ài EYE, or “Lil’ Eye”). In 2021, the rapper was blacklisted and all his social media accounts were deactivated, and his music was removed from streaming platforms due to the aforementioned song. This recent censorship reflects the unease of the Party towards the dissatisfaction of young people. According to a social media analysis conducted by The Economist, online discussions on at least one Chinese platform have become increasingly negative in the past five years. Censors have repeatedly removed viral expressions of discontent, such as “Kong Yiji literature,” which laments the struggles of overeducated and underemployed individuals, and the term “Four Won’t Youth,” referring to those who refuse to date, marry, buy homes, or have children.

The Party appears increasingly inclined to enforce its cultural ideals, resulting in what Sinologist Geremie Barmé has labeled as Xi Jinping’s “empire of monotony.” Criticism from youth towards government-approved “mainstream” content seems to be a clear boundary. In April of this year, a student from Peking University was dismissed from their role in the Communist Youth League and compelled to publicly apologize for sharing a mild critique of the propaganda film “Flashover” on social media platform Xiaohongshu. In May, comedian Li Haoshi was placed on a blacklist for making a joke comparing his dogs to soldiers in the People’s Liberation Army. Weibo also began censoring contemporary artist Yue Minjun’s famous paintings of smiling soldiers. This censorship extends to music as well. The band Slap was removed from the internet due to their satirical and politically divisive lyrics. Officials in the city of Shijiazhuang even pressured a local rock festival to use a revised and diluted version (“The Unkillable One from Shijiazhuang”) of a rebellious rock anthem originally composed by indie icons Omnipotent Youth Society. In some cases, censorship takes a physical form: officials in Zhengzhou literally painted over a wall to erase a popular online poem titled “Momma.”

Due to the limited room for cultural analysis in society, it is not unexpected that critiques of the Party’s main news program were swiftly suppressed.