Posted by Jeremy Goldkorn on Wednesday, August 16, 2006 at 12:52 PM
Sanlian Life Week editor Wang Xiaofeng has posted a short essay on his blog about the new rules issued by the State Administration of Radio, TV and Film (SARFT) that seek to control online video (see yesterday's Danwei post for more info about the rules). Below is a rough translation.
The General Administration of Anxiety about Radio, Film & TV
by Wang Xiaofeng
Our country has an organization that is sometimes called the Administration (广电局), sometimes the Department (广电部), of Radio, Film and TV [i.e. SARFT]. Whatever you call them, their mission stays the same.
Now they are being called the General Administration of Anxiety about Radio, TV and Film. Why Anxiety?
For example, today they are anxious so they don't let you film anyhting about criminal cases, tomorrow they get anxious and don't let you film any historical dramas, the next day they get anxious and don't let you broadcast any foreign cartoons.
What a lot of trouble! Why don't they just promulgate a law that states what kind of things you can film, and explicitly ban everything else. But reconsidering that strategy, that's not so good either: what are they going to get anxious about?
Recently, they want to introduce another new regulation forbidding the transmission over the Internet any video content that does not have a permit. This is really timely.
According to the scope and structure of China's [government] organizations, SARFT is supposed to regulate broadcast, cinema, and TV. The Internet should be regulated by the Ministry of the Information Industries (MII).
But this Internet thing, it's got a problem: you can never say exactly what type of thing it is, it just takes whatever exists and expresses it online. When you talk about which department should regulate it, if you talk from a management point of view, it should be agreed who will manage it to avoid doubling up of roles, and also to avoid it not being managed at all.
But the Internet is not so simple, it seems everyone has a right to regulate it; it's such a big fatty piece of meat, everyone wants a bite.
The most classic example of MII and the General Administration of Anxiety competing for power is the case of Internet video. This time, General Administration of Anxiety has initiated an attack; they have gone on the offensive when it comes to Internet video. This is just conjecture, a few spoof videos on the Internet cannot actually have much of an effect. 'Controlling videos without permits' is just an excuse.
China has a characteristic: laws and regulations are not differentiated. Sometimes I think this is very scientific: in the era of the planned economy, policies definitely led to results, but in a market economy, such policies sometimes seem ridiculous. Today a ban, tomorrow a ban. These policies can be very arbitrary, lacking in science and reason. To be honest, many such policies help the relevant government department to "help themselves". Think about it: if Windows released a new operating system, and then released thousands of patches to modify it, would it still be called a system?
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