China's iQiyi halts 'idol competition' programs amid criticism

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A sign of Chinese video-streaming platform iQiyi Inc is pictured at the Beijing International Cultural and Creative Industry Expo, in Beijing, China May 29, 2019. Picture taken May 29, 2019. REUTERS/Stringer ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. CHINA OUT.

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BEIJING, Aug 26 (Reuters) - Chinese video streaming platform iQiyi (IQ.O) said on Thursday it would stop showing all "idol competition" programs, calling them unhealthy amid a regulatory crackdown that has seen Beijing criticise firms for encouraging celebrity worship.

China's equivalent of Netflix, IQiyi had amassed a number of hits with programs such as "Youth with You" which allowed viewers to vote for boy band contestants by purchasing products with voting codes.

Beijing, however, has in recent months strongly criticised such shows and the overall fostering of what it called "unhealthy fan culture" after a number of celebrities including Canadian pop star Kris Wu and Chinese actor Zhang Zhehan were caught up in scandals. read more

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"We will cancel idol talent shows and off-site online voting, be responsible as a platform, resist bad influences, and maintain a healthy and clean internet as well as audio-visual environment for our users," the company said in a statement.

iQiyi dropped the third season of "Youth with You" before its finale earlier this year after a controversy in which fans of the show were filmed wasting milk in their bid to qualify to vote.

The Internet sector has been the target of an unprecedentedly wide-ranging regulatory crackdown which has seen authorities rebuke and punish companies on areas from monopolistic behaviour to consumer rights.

This month, China's Twitter-like Sina Weibo (WB.O) took down an online list that ranks celebrities by popularity after state media said social media platforms ought to rein in the promotion of celebrity culture to protect children.

Celebrities have also been directly criticised. On Tuesday, the China Federation of Literary and Art Workers Professional Ethics Committee held a forum in Beijing that issued a proposal advocating strict self-discipline for actors and artistes.

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Reporting by Sophie Yu and Brenda Goh; editing by Jason Neely

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