(Beijing-AFP) – China’s satellite broadcasters have cut the number of prime time entertainment shows they air by more than two-thirds, the state Xinhua news agency said, as Beijing seeks to stem Western influences.

The dramatic reduction comes after China’s broadcasting watchdog barred satellite broadcasters from airing “excessive entertainment” and ordered them to show at least two hours of news each evening from January 1.

“Satellite channels have started to broadcast programmes that promote traditional virtues and socialist core values,” Xinhua said Tuesday, citing the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (SARFT).

The number of entertainment shows airing during prime time every week has plunged to 38 from 126, it said.

Chinese actors and technicians work on the shooting of a TV show entitled "Our French Years" produced by China's Jiangsu TV on July 28, 2011 in Autun, eastern France. China's satellite broadcasters have cut the number of prime time entertainment shows they air by more than two-thirds. ©AFP PHOTO / JEFF PACHOUD

ntao warned in an essay published in a Communist Party magazine against the growing influence of Western culture in China, and urged efforts to boost the country’s own soft power.

For the past decade Beijing has been encouraging state-run media to be more competitive and less reliant on state subsidies, which has led to more critical reporting and racier programming as outlets compete for readers and viewers.

But the trend towards more free-wheeling reporting, the growth of reality television programmes and the explosion of microblogging sites has undermined official efforts to control public opinion.

China’s most senior Communist Party members agreed at their annual meeting in October to boost the nation’s cultural soft power, a move analysts said was partly to ensure the media served the goal of galvanising patriotic sentiment.

China has more television viewers than any other country in the world, with an estimated 95 percent of its 1.3 billion people having access to the medium.

Xinhua did not specify which shows had been axed, but it said they included dating shows, talent contests, talk shows and stories deemed to be of “low taste.”

It said popular dating show “If You Are the One” would continue to be shown in prime time — despite having raised official eyebrows when a contestant said she would rather “cry in the back of a BMW” than date a man who only had a bicycle.