I would have assumed that the canceling of this particular TV show was just part of the general offensive on entertainment that Beijing is attempting right now, but the Economist thinks it might have been because of audience participation:
“Happy Girl” had just finished this year’s run when the broadcasting authorities announced that the show would not return next year. Officially, one of its sins was allowing episodes to exceed its 90-minute permitted time-slot. It was also wrong to show them at prime time (the programmes were too racy).
“Happy Girl” is broadcast by a state-owned satellite-television company in the southern province of Hunan, but has a devoted following across the country. Exhibiting the extraordinary gap that has opened between officials and the viewing public, a station spokesman said the broadcaster would replace the show with uplifting programmes such as “practical information about housework”.
The Communist Party’s disdain for shows such as “Happy Girl” has long been clear. The programme’s forerunner, “Super Girl”, upset the authorities by allowing viewers to vote for contestants by sending text messages from their mobile phones. It all smacked too much of democracy.
These are unsettled times for unconventional culture in China. In the south-western city of Chongqing the authorities are waging a campaign to promote old-fashioned “red culture”, such as revolutionary songs. The party is preparing for an annual meeting of its Central Committee next month at which the main item on the agenda will be the promotion of “the great development and great prosperity of socialist culture”. Gripping stuff. Big changes in the party leadership will be announced late next year. Officials do not want anyone to conclude from “Happy Girl” that they should have a choice.
Economic Observer, a Chinese-language newspaper in Beijing, published a commentary on its website suggesting that the question of audience voting could be the party’s main concern about “Happy Girl”. “Some people sigh that if only we could vote in Chinese elections, as we do in ‘Happy Girl’, then we’d lock horns and join the contest…This is the truly sensitive issue.”