Beijing TV authorities have ordered online entertainment shows to promote socialism instead of "irrational" star-chasing as part of a crackdown on China's increasingly obsessive celebrity fan culture.
Modelled after similar programs in Korea and Japan, boyband reality shows such as "Produce Camp 2021" and "Youth With You" have become viral sensations in China, creating massive armies of mostly young, female fans who vocally support their favorite contestants online.
Authorities abruptly suspended the latest season of "Youth With You" last week shortly before its finale, after a leading contestant was embroiled in an online scandal over his family's alleged past business dealings.
At the same time, state media heavily criticized the show's fans for frenzied buying of milk produced by the show's sponsor, with cartons containing QR codes to vote for their favorite contestants.
That led to the dumping of large quantities of milk, which fans filmed and posted on the internet.
"Certain online variety programs have seen issues such as irrational fan support, celebrity-chasing and hype ... which urgently need strengthened guidance and timely rectification," the Beijing Radio and Television Bureau said in a Monday notice.
"Online variety shows must insist on taste, style and responsibility; resist vulgarity and kitsch; vigorously promote core socialist values and spread positive energy."
The guidelines ban shows from letting fans spend money to vote for contestants and order them to strictly vet contestants' backgrounds for criminal records, personal scandals and "bad social influence".
State media last week criticized the milk-buying craze driven by show producers.
"To vote for their idol, fans scan a QR code in the cap, only needing the bottle not the milk, so crates and crates of milk were poured onto the ground," ran a commentary by state broadcaster CCTV News.
"This absurd method of celebrity-chasing is induced by sellers and platforms."
China officially adopted a law banning food waste in April, which threatens fines of up to 50,000 yuan ($7,800) for restaurants that waste excessive amounts of food.