Country to nix future incoming foreign channels

BEIJING — China is planning to step up control of “cultural products” from abroad and will forbid any new foreign-owned TV channels from entering the country, according to a report from the official Xinhua news agency.

“No more overseas TV channels will be approved in principle, while management on foreign channels that had been allowed to enter China will be enhanced,” the report said.

In a sign of a broadening clampdown on foreign influences in China, the authorities would keep a particular eye on satellite TV programs, imported Internet games and cartoon films to prevent Chinese youth from “evil infringement.”

“The aim of the move is to protect Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs) and safeguard state security in the cultural field,” ran a circular issued jointly issued by six central government departments, published on Xinhua’s China Economic Information Service.

Foreign media groups, including News Corp., Tom.com in Hong Kong and Viacom’s MTV, have been taking more and more of a role in Chinese local media, while Disney and others have been looking for a way in. While the measures appear draconian at first glance, they largely reiterate the current stance on foreign influence in the media and underline recent controls introduced on foreign media groups seeking to invest.

What remains a matter for interpretation is how much they will stop new media firms from getting a chunk of what everyone expects will be the biggest TV market in the world. The report went on to say that customs officials would redouble efforts to ensure importers had acquired an official approval issued by the central government departments in charge of cultural, radio, film, TV, media and publication sectors.

Any foreign theater groups would have to get official approval from the Ministry of Culture, a practice more or less in place anyway, while the circular went on to say that the illegal importation of TV programs and cartoons, pirated products and unauthorized online play of programs was severely prohibited.

Move also banned people from selling overseas journals and newspapers without authorization, and domestic institutions and individuals need to follow specific procedures if they subscribe to overseas journals and newspapers.

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