BEIJING (Reuters) - China will limit the number of entertainment programs allowed to air on television, from match-making game shows to dance broadcasts, and push to replace them with morality-building programing, Chinese media reported on Tuesday.

China's State Administration of Radio, Film and Television starting next year will restrict shows that "record the dark and gloomy side of society," the Southern Metropolis Daily said.

"For every satellite TV station, no more than two entertainment programs can be aired during prime time from 7:30 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. every night," the paper said, citing a directive from the national broadcasting watchdog.

Instead, the newspaper said, the extra time slots would be filled with programs that "promote harmony, health and mainstream culture."

The official Xinhua news agency said the directive aimed to guard against "excessive entertainment" by restricting game shows, talk shows, talents shows, and reality shows, among other types of programing.

At least two hours of news would have to be broadcast during the last six hours of the day on 34 stations, Xinhua said.

A notice of the announcement was not available on the agency's website and telephone calls by Reuters went unanswered.

Chinese media reported in September that the watchdog had asked provincial television stations to limit certain types of broadcasts and boost production of shows about housekeeping and ethics, but the industry was waiting for formal notification.

In September, the agency ordered a popular television talent show akin to American Idol, Super Girl, off the air for a year after it exceeded broadcasting time limits. It has also recently reiterated its ban on sex-related television and radio advertisements, such as ads for breast enlargement surgery.

China routinely censors anything it considers politically sensitive or offensive, from songs to films, in contrast to the patriotic fare of state broadcasters.

Widespread piracy, however, means bans are often easy to skirt via bootlegged DVDs or on the Internet.

The Communist Party Central Committee's hundreds of members met in mid-October to discuss "cultural reform" of state-run publishers, performance troupes and broadcasters struggling to balance the pull of the marketplace with the dictates of propaganda.

(Reporting by Sally Huang and Michael Martina; Editing by Jacqueline Wong and Robert Birsel)

Mochila insert follows.