An interesting story this morning in the Wall Street Journal (subscription required, or read our brief for free): state broadcaster China Central TV (CCTV) will ban all images of pigs in its broadcasts to avoid offending Muslims:
"China is a multi-ethnic country," the network’s ad department said in a notice sent to ad agencies late Tuesday. "To show respect to Islam, and upon guidance from higher levels of the government, CCTV will keep any ‘pig’ images off the TV screen."
Sounds odd – at least at first. Isn’t the pig China’s favorite animal to eat, not to mention a traditional symbol of prosperity, luck and fertility? And since when has the government been especially cautious about offending Muslims? The article answers your questions:
Chinese TV’s ban comes in the wake of the killing of 18 Muslims by police in the country’s remote northwest earlier this month. The government accused the men of being terrorists. Muslim activists have called for an independent investigation.
The policy shift offers a window on the inner workings of China’s governmental machinery, known for its surprise edicts and abrupt shifts in regulation. It wasn’t immediately clear whether the ban applies just to ads or to all TV content. And some analysts said the government could still reverse itself, or offer exceptions to the ban.
Advertising-industry executives in China say senior Communist Party leaders recently told CCTV that references to pigs should be avoided to prevent conflicts among ethnic groups. CCTV’s move was then announced to advertisers just as many were finalizing their spots for the holiday, which begins Feb. 18.
What’s next? Calling off the Year of the Dragon to avoid negative imagery associated with the mythical beast by some foreigners? At least advertisers will be able to air their piggy commercials on provincial and local TV networks, the article says. It ends with this classic line from Ma Yunfu, vice chairman of the China Islamic Association:
"We don’t want to see any misunderstanding like the one 12 years ago," during the last Year of the Pig, says Mr Ma. At that time, Mr Ma says, some newspapers published a tale in which a pig saves the life of Muhammad. "That aroused a lot of anger," he says.