Media regulation

SARFT clamps down on "online TV stations"

The State Administration of Radio, Film and TV (SARFT) released an announcement on December 25, calling on a handful of online TV stations to cease and desist operating and calling themselves TV stations.

The notice does not seem to be aimed at video sharing websites, but at websites that brand themselves as TV stations, showing their own content as well as pirated programs. Several such websites are named in the SARFT notice. Most of them have logos that look like official Chinese TV stations and offer news as well as lifestyle programs. SARFT is outraged to the point of lashing the notice with People's Daily style quote marks for the names and products of these upstart "online TV stations".

Despite the threats about fines and punishments in the SARFT notice, as of today all the websites mentioned are still online.

What does this mean for other companies in related industries? It's difficult to tell. In August 2006, SARFT released rules requiring special permits for any kind of motion picture online, which in theory would include flash animations in banner advertisements (see Danwei: SARFT attacks online video). Nobody in China paid much attention to their little regulation at the time.

UPDATE: Interfax has a report about the new rules, quoting a representative from one of the named websites who says "Our broadcasting was not interfered with at all ... A lot of advertisers came to us."

Below is a rough translation of the new SARFT notice:

SARFT notice about the investigation of illegal "Internet TV stations"

December 25: SARFT issued a 'Notice about the investigation of illegal "Internet TV stations"' to all broadcast, film and TV departments of all provinces, autonomous regions and cities. The notice says that recently a number of Internet companies have been calling themselves "Internet TV stations".

Just in Beijing, there are the so-called "China International Net TV" (, "China International Media Net TV",, "China International Economic TV" (,, "China Net TV", two "Central Net TV" and and "China Asia Net TV"

These illegal "Internet TV stations" are broadcasting programming over the Internet without authorization, making news programs themselves, brazenly opening news bureaus in different places; some are openly attending media events (including events organized by SARFT departments), using the name TV station to publish information in periodicals; some have even made fake "Information Network Broadcast Program Licences" or National Ministry Approval certificates, using these to look for business and investment.

The behavior of these illegal TV stations has contravened the sixth clause of "Internet and other network video program broadcast measures" (SARFT ruling 39) which state that companies engaging in online video programming must obtain an "Information network audio-visual broadcast permit". According to the 25th clause of the measures, violators may be fined between 10 and 30,000 yuan; the violation constitutes a criminal offense.

For companies that refuse to stop this illegal behavior, according to the rules issued by the Publicity Department, MII, SARFT and 16 government departments ('Notice about the management and coordination of websites - Xinbu Liandian (2006) No. 121), the operating licenses of these websites will be cancelled, their Internet connections will be terminated, and their business licenses cancelled. At the same time, entities operating within the [official] broadcast systems may not cooperate with illegal online TV stations nor may they invite illegal online TV stations to participate in research meetings, forums, exhibitions, ceremonies etc. Broadcast organizations and publications may not report on the activities of illegal online TV stations nor give them a platform to broadcast information.

Links and Sources
There are currently 2 Comments for SARFT clamps down on "online TV stations".

Comments on SARFT clamps down on "online TV stations"


On one occasion I asked a Shanghai based expat businessman what he thought of an online business idea I had been working on. He thought it sounded too politically risky. Foreigners are too risk adverse in China. Look at these guys! In a country that stringently controls media and the flow of information, they open up their own TV station, start making their own news, and even show up and government sponsored conferences. Granted, they got taken down in the end, but had they mixed that risk taking with a bit more prudence, they may have succeeded.

Jeremy, regarding the above comment, what issue of 南方周末 was that?

[[EDITOR'S NOTE (JDM): This week's end-of-year special. Text (without photos) here.]]

China Media Timeline
Major media events over the last three decades
Danwei Model Workers
The latest recommended blogs and new media
From 2008
Front Page of the Day
A different newspaper every weekday
From the Vault
Classic Danwei posts
+ Culture and corporate propaganda in Soho Xiaobao (2007.11): Mid-2007 issues of Soho Xiaobao (SOHO小报), illustrating the complicated identity of in-house magazines run by real estate companies.
+ Internet executives complain about excessive Net censorship (2010.03): Internet executives complain about excessive Net censorship at an officially sanctioned meeting in Shenzhen.
+ Crowd-sourced cheating on the 2010 gaokao (2010.06): A student in Sichuan seeks help with the ancient Chinese section of this year's college entrance exam -- while the test is going on!
Danwei Archives