Caixin
Aug 27, 2021 09:23 PM
BUSINESS

Video Streamer IQiyi Vows to Cancel Idol Talent Shows to Help Rein In Fan Club Culture

Photo: VCG
Photo: VCG

Chinese video streaming platform iQiyi Inc. has promised to no longer run idol talent shows or host any form of online voting, as regulators intensify efforts to tackle problems festering in the country’s online fan groups, including online abuse, harmful content and malicious marketing.

“IQiyi is cancelling its idol competition shows, and future iQiyi programs will not feature any form of online voting,” the Baidu-owned company said in a statement to Caixin.

On Friday, China’s top internet watchdog announced its plans to strengthen regulation over the country’s “chaotic” celebrity fan culture, with measures that include banning celebrity ranking lists and scouring “harmful” information from fan groups, such as posts about rumors and gossip.

“IQiyi takes its responsibility as an entertainment platform seriously,” said the New-York listed company, which produces dramas, films and variety shows and had 105 million subscribers at the end of March.

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The notice from the Cyberspace Administration of China (link in Chinese) said it is stepping up regulatory measures after local authorities achieved “a certain degree of success” in a two-month campaign that began in mid-June targeting fan club culture (link in Chinese), known as “fanquan” (饭圈).

The 10 listed measures called for “strict regulation” of celebrity management companies and for the closure of groups that exist solely for the purpose of celebrity gossip, comment manipulation and fundraising that could negatively encourage fans to “provoke trouble.”

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IQiyi’s decision follows a public outcry over food wastage linked to its popular talent show “Youth With You 3” in May.

The show had urged viewers to vote for their favorite boy band contestants by scanning QR codes on the packaging of dairy products made by its sponsor. However, videos circulating on social media showed that some fans were buying the products in bulk, only to dispose of the milk and yoghurt after voting. The resulting backlash led the platform to apologize and drop the season finale.

The crackdown on online celebrity fan clubs comes amid mounting criticism over its influence on minors, as well as harassment and verbal abuse that take place among fan groups. Dedicated fans are often seen spending large amounts of money to buy products related to the celebrity, whose status is often boosted by social media rankings and online traffic.

It also comes following the high-profile demise of popular celebrities including Chinese-Canadian pop star Kris Wu, who was arrested on suspicion of rape, and Zhang Zhehan, who sparked a controversy after photos of him posing outside Japan’s Yasukuni shrine went viral. Both stars, who had millions of fans, instantly lost dozens of endorsement deals and had their work removed on a number of online platforms.

Contact reporter Kelsey Cheng (kelseycheng@caixin.com) and editor Michael Bellart (michaelbellart@caixin.com)

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