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The ban, which was published Monday and takes effect Jan. 1, said no ads may appear in any drama series, whose episodes typically run 45 minutes.

The order is the latest in a series since the ruling Communist Party last month endorsed a program to raise the entertainment and ideological value of cultural offerings to better hold the attention of Chinese increasingly turning to the Internet for alternate viewpoints.

TV is the most popular, lucrative and, hence, tightly controlled of all media in China. The ad ban follows a directive last month to limit reality shows and other entertainment fare.

The State Administration of Radio, Film and Television said eliminating ads from programs will “improve the level of public cultural services, protect people’s basic cultural rights … and leave the people satisfied.”

While ad revenue is expected to shrink, broadcasting executives and analysts quoted by state media said the ban will force TV stations to air higher quality series to keep viewers from switching stations.

Manslaughter charge dropped in ‘Idol’ contestant’s death

New Jersey prosecutors have dropped the most serious charges against a man who had been accused of killing a former “American Idol” contestant with his car, agreeing with his lawyer that even though he had confessed, there is no evidence he struck the woman.

Daniel Bark pleaded guilty under a plea agreement Monday to eluding police and drunken driving. Prosecutors dismissed aggravated manslaughter and other charges in the 2009 accident that killed Alexis Cohen of Allentown, Pa. Her profanity-laden rants when she was rejected by the show on two successive seasons were shown repeatedly.

The 25-year-old’s body was found on a road in Seaside Heights, N.J.

Bark faces probation and nearly a year in jail when he’s sentenced. His attorney, Michael Nolan, told the Asbury Park Press there’s never been any physical evidence connecting Bark to Cohen’s death.

“As we’ve said all along, there has never been any proof that he did do it,” he said. “The sad part is, this girl was killed, and whoever killed that girl is still driving around out there.”

Mr. Nolan said his client was pressured into confessing to something he didn’t do. In court Monday, Bark said he had drunk about six beers at a nightclub before getting into his car and driving early on July 25, 2009. He acknowledged ignoring orders from two bicycle police officers to stop, instead driving away from them. He said he was afraid because of the beers he had consumed, and because he had a marijuana pipe in his car.

Bark acknowledged swerving and nearly striking the police officers before fleeing from them, and driving through several stop signs. He also conceded he was impaired by the beer, though he wouldn’t submit to a test to determine his blood-alcohol level when he was pulled over by other police officers.

Premiere date announced for USA’s ‘Common Law’

USA Network has announced the series premiere date for rookie buddy cop series “Common Law” and the returns for two veteran dramas.

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