The Chinese government has decided to cap the salaries of actors to rein in the culture of “money worship” in the film industry, it announced on Wednesday. Stars’ salaries cannot exceed 40% of the total production costs, while lead actors cannot be paid more than 70% of the total cast’s pay, according to news agency Xinhua. The rules apply to movies as well as television and digital shows.
The development comes weeks after China announced on June 3 that it would launch a tax evasion investigation into the film industry, following a controversy involving superstar Fan Bingbing. The announcement was made by five government agencies, including the propaganda department, ministry of culture and tourism and radio, TV and film regulators.
The notice does not specify the reason for the crackdown, but says it needs to deal with “sky-high pay” for actors, “yin and yang contracts” and “tax evasion and other issues”,” said the BBC. Yin and yang contracts refers to the alleged practice of film stars signing multiple contracts for a project and declaring the one of lowest value to authorities.
These problems have “damaged the health of the film and TV industry”, and led to “money worship”, “the youth blindly chasing celebrities” and “distorted social values”, the notice said, but did not give details on how the pay cap would be implemented.
The government additionally said that film productions should prioritise benefits to society instead of considering box office returns, ratings and online views alone.
In May, television presenter Cui Yongyuan posted documents on social media alleging that Fan, one of the highest paid actors in China, had signed two contracts for the same production – one for $1.56m and another for $7.8m. Cui indicated that stars commonly sign such yin-yang contracts. Fan’s representatives denied the allegations and reportedly threatened to sue Cui.
The government’s move is also being seen as an extension of the censorship to which the country’s online platforms and films are often subjected.
“In other film industries – for example, in Hollywood and Bollywood – the government does not get involved with how much actors are paid,” the BBC said. “But in China, the government tends to have more oversight over many industries, even if they are in the private sector.”