Primetime toon out

China says 'That's all folks!'

NEW YORK — China may consider squeezing foreign cartoons from coveted primetime slots as the world’s most populous nation tempers its embrace of Western media companies.

China’s national media bureau, the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (SARFT), made the proposal last week.

“One thing I know is that they are weird about animation. It may be about introducing children to Western values at a young age. Or it may be because they have a fairly strong local industry,” said one exec who does business in China for a major media company.

“They seem to be pulling back on everything,” the exec told Daily Variety. “In three years, I’m confident where we’ll be. Now, it’s dicey.”

At least 60% of broadcast animation on Chinese television must be domestic. Also, broadcasters can acquire only one foreign animation title for each one they produce in China.

An item in the June 3 China People’s Daily said that in a June 1 meeting, SARFT had indeed committed to expand the production and sale of homegrown cartoons. Paper said SARFT head Wang Taihua urged local authorities to take advantage of “preferential policies granted by central government and local governments to attract domestic capital — particularly private capital — “to participate in the development of (a) homemade animation industry.”

The Wall Street Journal online Tuesday reported that the bureau went further last week, proposing the primetime cuts.

Toon tightening talk comes as U.S. showbiz congloms see a decided cooling off in their relations with SARFT. Agency’s new leader seems to be reassessing the state of China’s media and entertainment industry after an unprecedented opening up last year led to a string of new joint ventures with Western companies, including Sony, Time Warner and Viacom.

It wasn’t immediately clear if a primetime toon ban would hit U.S. media congloms now or mostly mean a dimming of future prospects.

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