Web dramas, film producers asked to register payroll, storyline information

By Zhang Han Source:Global Times Published: 2019/2/12 21:58:40

A scene from Ever Since We Love starring Fan Bingbing,who was involved in a tax evasion scandal. Photo: CFP

China's media watchdog is requiring web dramas and film producers, whose budgets exceed a certain level, to register, a move industry insiders hope would help curb actors' skyrocketing fees and improve programming. 

The National Radio and Television Administration (NRTA) said that starting Friday, web dramas and cartoon makers whose budgets exceed 5 million yuan ($737,000) and filmmakers with programs costing over 1 million yuan must register with the administration, including genre, content and budget before production begins, according to a document from the administration's website in Central China's Hunan and Hubei provinces, East China's Zhejiang and northern Beijing Municipality. 

The NRTA notice said that after production, producers need to update their actual investment and expenses, their cast's pay and broadcasting platform. 

Producers who pass the review will receive a broadcast number to promote their works to advertisers and streaming sites. 

Five million yuan is not a large amount and most projects are qualified to register based on this standard, Li Jian (pseudonym), who works for a studio based in Tongzhou district in Beijing, told the Global Times on Tuesday. Each episode of a "so-so quality" web drama costs about 1 million yuan, he said. 

Industry insiders consider this notice a follow-up measure after stricter tax regulations and clear rules on actors' pay were released in the second half of 2018. 

NRTA set a pay ceiling for actors and celebrities in television and web dramas, reality shows and films on October 31, 2018. The fees for the cast cannot exceed 40 percent of the total production cost, and the pay for the main actors, usually more famous and expensive, should be no more than 70 percent of the total actors' pay. 

"It is time to set a limit on sky-high payments. Many producers and broadcast sites welcome the rule, which will reduce their costs," said an industry insider surnamed Chen. 

Li is optimistic and expects the rule to benefit small and medium-sized production companies that "don't have much money to pay for expensive actors after recruiting good writers and directors." 

"I am looking forward to some quality works with talented directors telling great stories, and less famous but skillful actors," Li said, citing the recent sci-fi blockbuster The Wandering Earth, which invested heavily on VFXs, as an example. 

Chen is less certain, noting that the problem is how to effectively implement the rules, which requires strong supervision. 

Experiencing unbridled growth in the past few years, the industry is in "muddy waters" and supervision will be difficult, said Chen, stressing the actual amount celebrities receive may be way more than on paper as dual contracts will not be ruled out immediately. 

"Government regulation will rebalance the market that has been troubled by star worship over artistic appreciation," Chen said, noting the job will require cooperation from different departments, including NRTA and tax authorities. 

In 2016, payments for top and B-list Chinese actors rose by 250 percent within a year, the Beijing Daily reported. Actress Fan Bingbing, who was involved in a tax evasion scandal, topped that year's Chinese stars' income ranking.

Newspaper headline: Web dramas ordered to register

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