China Strengthens Censorship on Foreign TV Online

China’s State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film, and Television (SARFT) has started to crack down on online TV shows by introducing a policy of “censor first, broadcast later” for local Internet companies.

According to the new rule, online companies will have to employ government-approved censors to monitor content before all streaming videos go public. Investors and operators from the companies who stream content that has not been officially approved will be warned, fined or punished with a ban on streaming content for up to five years.

Until now, online companies like Youku and Tudou have been relying on in-house censors.

According to Hollywood Reporter, SAPPRFT said:

Service companies broadcasting Internet audio and video programs, such as online dramas and microfilms etc., should have qualified personnel examining the content, who meet the requirements for checking and have been trained by state or provincial Internet video and audio programs industry associations. They should have a solid editing and censorship management system for program content, and need a legally obtained license to stream video and audio programs, issued by the SAPPRFT, and should strictly follow the permission to develop business within the permitted business scope, purchased content will be treated the same as self-produced content. 

Earlier this year, legislation required that anyone who uploads videos, including microfilms (or short films on the Internet) and other user-generated content, must be registered with their real names, and all microfilms must be censored before posting them.

American TV shows have gained great popularity in China over the past few years.

American TV shows have gained great popularity in China over the past few years.

China’s online video viewers reached 450 million earlier this year, and the number is still growing. The new rule is aimed mainly at American TV shows and microfilms. American TV shows such as House of Cards and the Walking Dead have gained great popularity during the past year, but according to the new rule, these shows aren't likely to be approved.

To circumvent the censorship, some American companies have reportedly come up with two versions of the shows to make sure they don’t lose the huge market in China. Although several video providers have not been informed of the specific rules of this crackdown yet, they have already slowed down their purchasing of American shows with sensitive content.

Rumor has it that supernatural-themed shows and horror stories are most likely suffer from the new policy, and that 80 percent of American shows will be pulled online. Many video sites have already shifted some of their focus to Japanese and South Korean TV soap operas.

The news has triggered anger and complaints among many netizens. According to Sina Weibo poll, over 120,000 netizens voted against this censorship rule, compared to 6,000 who were in favor.

One netizen joked:


American shows are the first to go, and next [British] shows like Black Mirror will be censored as well. Then Japanese shows, romance-centric Korean shows, and in the end everyone will sit in front of the television watching over 30 channels broadcasting shows about killing Japanese invaders to promote national spirit.

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