Media regulation

The new rules about online video in China

In the last few days of 2007, two government ministries, SARFT and MII, announced a new set of rules to govern online video websites like Tudou,com,, and other Youtube clones.

On December 29, Beijing-based telcoms consulting firm Marbridge published an English translation of the rules (original Chinese version here).

On January 2, Kaiser Kuo posted these thoughts on the Digital Watch blog:

My gut take on this is that it’s more about holding these video sharing and P2P companies responsible for naughty content than about trying to shake- or shut down the industry.

This makes sense and is consistent with Internet regulatory patterns of the last few years.

This morning the mainstream media has picked up on the story, and Google News counts 222 different stories about the new laws. Many of the stories are guilty of rather gross simplifications, such as this story on staid old Bloomberg, whose reporters seem to have been told to sex up their China coverage:

China to Limit Web Broadcasting to State Operators

China, which outlaws criticism of the state, will ban Web sites that aren't run by the government from broadcasting video or radio over the Internet.

Nonetheless, there is concern within China that the laws will destroy an industry in its infancy. David Bandurski of the China Media Project has summarized Chinese criticism of the rules (and censorship of such criticism) in the Oriental Morning Post and Southern Weekly: Internet censors move to quiet debate on new online video and audio regulations.

There are currently 8 Comments for The new rules about online video in China.

Comments on The new rules about online video in China

Does this mean danwei tv would be illeagalized according to the new rules?(danwei tv may sound like a "广播电视专有名称" to some people)
Do you have to get a lisence?

The poor guys got ways to live.
It's not that bad.

From the Xinhua article:

"Candidness not only woos media, but also the people, and it is needed because the public are not to be fooled," she said. "The media are our friends, and not enemy. We should respect them because their mission is to seek and report truth."

From David Bandurski's report on the quashing of coverage of negative coverage of the unpopular digital TV rollout:

According to a CMP source, the Central Propaganda Department issued a ban early last month on all coverage criticizing the rollout of DTV services in the country. Censors, the source said, singled out a December 7 editorial from the official Xinhua News Agency’s Xinhua Daily Telegraph. The article was called, "Overbearing ‘digital TV’ harms our self-respect."

Seems not everyone is reading from the same playbook. Wonderful media skills will only every be so valuable if you can simply switch off coverage you don't like.

Also useful at the Central Party School would be the upper-division course, "How to deal with uppity foreign media that you can't switch off." I volunteer to help.

it was just a manner of time that something like this happened. bad for the industry, bad for the netizens and bad for the government.

He who controls the media, controls the mind of the public--and the Party knows it only too well

I'm not a China-basher by any means, but the wording is really ambiguous, and seems designed to give the Chinese government broad and unchecked leeway in deciding what is acceptable and what is not:

"All content broadcast online must be kept available for at least 60 days. The following types of content are forbidden: that which damages China's unity and sovereignty; harms ethnic solidarity; promotes superstition; portrays violence, pornography, gambling, or terrorism; violates privacy; damages China's culture or traditions; or violates existing laws of China."

Who decides what "damages China's unity and sovereignty, promotes superstition" or "damages China's culture or traditions?" If the government unilaterally decides these things without any checks, these regulations are a wide open door for any government bureaucrat with the right level of authority to shut down any media site at all, simply by claiming that it violates one of these "standards" for content.

Simply put, this is censorship of the worst sort, and I am saddened for China and the Chinese people that this is taking place. When will the Chinese government realize that freedom of information access is just as important to a successful society as economic freedom?

The government has embraced economic freedom, at least to some degree; sooner or later, they are going to have to let information be free as well; it is an inevitable result of progress in information technology.

Please can someone explain what this means for Danwei TV.

Could you please go so far as to explain how this would work if Danwei TV decided to operate from offshore?

- would it simply be blocked? Is total blocking of a sites video content possible?

This does not mean very much for Danwei TV, since we simply piggy back off existing free video sharing sites like Youtube and Tudou. As long as sites like Tudou manage to remain legal, it is their problem to deal with the government. And unlike, we are tiny, moslty in English and of limited interest to the censors.

If Youtube is blocked it is a hassle for us because uploading becomes difficult and we do have an audience outside of China.

Of course, there is always the possibility that, which is not a PRC website, could get blocked. But this is unlikely to be related to the new online video rules.

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