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TV stars' skyrocketing pays need to be capped

By Pang Li (China.org.cn)

09:34, October 26, 2012

Nowadays, 60 to 70 percent of a TV drama's production budget will go straight to its actors' paychecks and often even just those of one or two of the drama's A-list stars. In the mere time span of a few years, the pays of TV stars have surged by a few to a dozen times, passing the limits of reason and posing an unbearable burden on the TV industry. Actors' sky high pays are becoming a huge obstacle to the development of the TV industry.

Generally speaking, the industry system and orientation are the main causes. With China's major satellite TV stations engaged in an increasingly severe battle for higher view ratings, they need hot TV shows to boost their popularity and attract advertisers. It goes without question that stars today enjoy major popularity and are easily able to attract viewers. Consequently, they are a powerful tool for TV stations to bring up viewer ratings, and in addition make for a bet that advertisers are willing to put their money on. This way, a starry cast comes first for TV stations seeking a TV show to buy.

The story, however, has to take a back seat. These preferences on the side of the stations indicate the general direction the industry is headed towards; investors command directors to cast stars in order to ensure they do not lose money. Meanwhile, the money that made its way into the TV industry and the enthusiasm of many movie studios in getting themselves listed on the market have considerably increased production demands in recent years. However, there is no endless number of stars available out there. The excessive demand for them is certainly boosting their net worth. And just imagine that an actor has dozens of offers to pick from at once; it shouldn't come as a surprise that he'll grab the one with the highest pay.

Although Chinese stars' pays have reached a world class level, the overall quality of Chinese TV productions falls far below it. The actors' high pays cut into shooting, production and costume budgets, among others, and reduce the paychecks of the crew, dragging down the quality of TV shows.

In addition to the direct impact, the actors' sky high pays have a potentially worse influence on the entire show business or even on society. If stars can have their pays easily increased exponentially just by following the industry's general trend, then who would make efforts to improve their understanding of the arts or their acting skills? What's worse, what high pays bring in return is not a greater devotion to the job, but the self-aggrandizement on the part of the actors. Such an atmosphere does not only bring down the reputation of the business, but also feeds the small screen with star-studded rubbish. Eventually the TV industry will be trapped in a vicious cycle.

Furthermore, TV stars, being the highly popular public figures, have a wide-spread influence on society, especially young people. Their sky high pays can provoke success-fervent, fame-thirsty young people to view stardom as a shortcut to success. This, in turn, enhances the money-worshipping and impatient mentality of society.

A high paycheck does not reflect an actor's worth or professionalism. It is merely a market reaction. A good actor should know that a high pay is not necessarily related to his art. He should take the screenplay and the production crew into serious consideration as well.

Meanwhile, it is crucial to discover new talent in order to meet the great demand. As a famous director put it "with a good story and hard work from both the director and marketing staff, casting new talents poses no problem [to box offices]." In fact, the soaring rise of any actor's pay can be turned around from the root by new faces coming from well-made TV shows.

In addition, the market access mechanism for showbiz capital should be improved. The industry should also discipline itself more strictly. The major satellite TV stations should put their social responsibility first. When buying a TV show, they should pay more attention to the story, acting and production quality, making filmmakers feel less pressure to cast new faces.

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