Arjen Nauta | Governing Through Reality TV in China: The Case of Hunan Satellite TV

Arjen Nauta | University of Amsterdam, Department of Media Studies | Supervisors: Prof. Jeroen de Kloet and Prof. José van Dijck | January 2015 – February 2019 | apm.nauta[at]gmail.com / a.p.m.nauta[at]uva.nl

Governing Through Reality TV in China: The Case of Hunan Satellite TV
ChinaCreative, funded by the ERC (Consolidator grant), led by prof. Jeroen de Kloet

My research seeks to address the surge of reality television in China in the 21st century within strategies of governance. First, I analyze the political economy in which television makers operate. Then, based on one year of ethnographic research at HSTV in Changsha, I show how political and economic factors influence the daily labor of production. For example, what does the rapid expansion of digital media technologies mean for production? And what about censorship? Which constraints are placed on television makers and how do they deal with them? Secondly, I focus on the product (reality shows) and examine how reality TV diffuses and amplifies the government of everyday life, utilizing the cultural power of television to assess and guide the ethics, behaviors, aspirations, and routines of ordinary people. And thirdly, I seek to understand the tactics of consumption; how do individuals act in environments defined by governmental or institutional strategies? This research therefore hopes to shed light not only on processes of governance in contemporary China, but to show as well how media practitioners are not just political agents who superimpose official propaganda; they are imbedded in the governance of a media ecology shaped by a multitude of interlacing forces.