Licenses required for webcasts

BEIJING — China’s powerful State Administration of Radio, Film and TV has tightened its grip on the biz by ordering all online content providers to apply for a license before broadcasting material on the Internet.

The new rules are a blow to foreign producers trying to break into the potentially lucrative but heavily regulated Chinese market because it effectively means that only state-approved TV stations and cinemas will be able to import content for webcasting.

Under the new rules, all pics, skeins, toons and documentaries to go online have to receive offline licenses, even if the website has purchased copyrights for foreign content directly from a distributor.

Online video sites are still working out what the new rules mean for them but, at the very least, they will slow down the process of showing content from abroad.

The authorities have already tightened controls on the media in this, the 60th anniversary of the revolution that brought the Communist Party to power and the 20th anniversary of the 1989 massacre of pro-democracy demonstrations on Tiananmen Square.

The new rules, which govern “audiovisual content broadcast online and via mobile Internet,” ban any programs that “oppose the basic principles of the Chinese constitution; jeopardize China’s unity, sovereignty or territorial integrity; divulge state secrets; and endanger national security or harm national honor and interest.”

This is the kind of language normally used to silence dissent in China.

The rules forbid skeins that incite ethnic hatred — probably a reference to Tibet, which China sees as an inextricable part of its sovereign territory.

They also ban content that publicizes cults or superstitions, a reference to the banned Falun Gong spiritual movement, and forbid programs that “explicitly display sexual perversions (including extramarital affairs and wife swaps), extreme violence or the slaughtering of animals.”

The government began an anti-smut campaign this year, and since then, Sarft has closed 341 audio-video websites for containing lowbrow content, according to state-run news service Xinhua.

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