CHINA: China state TV bans pig images in ads to avoid offending Muslims

During the upcoming year of the pig, China Central Television will ban images of pigs from billboards, print, television

Straits Times
Monday, January 29, 2007

Beijing --- China's top television station has banned all images of pigs from advertisements to avoid offending its Muslim minorities, said an official of the broadcaster.

The coming Chinese New Year starting on Feb 18 will usher in the year of the pig which occurs every 12 years according to the Chinese calendar.

Across China, images of the animal are proliferating on billboards and in print advertisements, as well as being used in promotional gifts in many shops.

But China Central Television (CCTV), the government's flagship station, says it will keep images of pigs off the screen and will refrain from mentioning the animal to avoid arousing ethnic tensions.

There are 18 million Muslims in China, making up some 2 per cent of the country's population, according to official statistics.

"CCTV is a national television network... Due to concern over ethnic and cultural habits, we will keep the pig image away from the screen," said a programme department official who declined to give his name.

"We do not want to cause unnecessary bad influence or hurt the feelings of ethnic groups."

Global food giant Nestle said it had been forced to scrap a plan to air a new year TV advertisement featuring a smiling cartoon pig, due to CCTV's opposition.

"It explained that this was to show respect to Islam and was a guidance from the higher levels of the government," said Mr Thierry Vapperaeau, spokesman for Nestle China.

"It is not a big problem... we will change to another cartoon image."

Coca-Cola also said it would restrict the airing of one of its commercials which shows a pig, to Chinese regions with few Muslims.

The Chinese-language, US-based World Journal quoted MindShare, an advertiser in Shanghai, as saying that the directive came from Mr Li Changchun, a member of China's all-powerful politburo, who is in charge of propaganda and media control.

Hong Kong's Sing Tao Daily said it was not known whether the ban applied only to commercials or to all television programmes.

Mr Ma Yunfu, vice-chairman of the China Islamic Association, said he had not been informed of the CCTV ban but viewed it as a precaution.

In Singapore, a MediaCorp spokesman said last night that it has no such policy and does not plan to impose one, in reply to a Straits Times query.