Government cap on fee brings down curtain on stars’ high incomes

By Wang Wenwen Source:Global Times Published: 2018/7/5 17:58:39

Is it disconcerting to know that there is an ocean of difference in the income of a person who has to cram a few lines and blurt it out and another one who can save a life or works in the sweltering heat to earn a living? Sadly, in countries where the entertainment industry is thriving, what celebrities earn put the rest of the people in awe. China's film industry, which has blossomed in recent years, is no exception.

It is in this context that Chinese authorities issued a notice, vowing to take actions to cap film stars' sky-high salaries and clamp down on tax evasion.

According to the directive, the salaries of all performers in each movie or TV series should be no more than 40 percent of the total production cost and the pay of leading actors has been capped at 70 percent of the total payment to the entire cast. The directive came after a row between a TV talk show host and former anchor for China's State broadcaster, and megastar Fan Bingbing. The host accused Fan of hiding her true income via "yin-yang contracts," in which a person shows the low-figure contract to tax authorities but actually earns much more from a high-value contract.

Fan's studio denied the accusations. Insiders reveal that the "yin-yang contracts," which are illegal, did exist for a long time, but nowadays, celebrities tend to adopt legal means to avoid high taxes.

Legal or not, the farce exposes the astronomical income celebrities earn and the public ire it draws. The question is: Do celebrities deserve the amount of money they make?

Some argue that celebrities are the products of the market. In China, celebrities have replaced what are traditionally known as heroes and become public idols. But due to the immaturity of the cultural market, we are yet to set rules for celebrities. With the push of the "fans economy" given the large fan base in China, celebrities are deified.

As a result, being shoddy, vulgar and profit-driven are features of their work or even themselves. With good appearance but no real performing skills, some celebrities can still pocket money, and this goes against market rules. The fact that these celebrities demand astronomical sums but flounder at the box office is alarming.

Those who take celebrities' high payments for granted also contend that they are public figures and can serve as role models. But once these celebrities exploit their social status, their impact on society can just be the opposite.

Chinese actor Gao Yunxiang is being charged with two counts of aggravated sexual assault in Australia. In 2014, Jaycee Chan, son of kung fu superstar Jackie Chan, was detained for allegedly hosting others for taking drugs in Beijing. A slew of actors and actresses were also involved in extramarital affairs. Can they be called "role models" for our society?

China's entertainment industry is hardly in order at this stage. The cap on their salaries is just the first step to correct it.

The wealth gap in China will remain large, but the problem is being addressed. Hopefully, the new rule can help celebrities focus on their work instead of manipulating taxes.

The author is a reporter with the Global Times.

Posted in: VIEWPOINT

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