China’s broadcast watchdog wants state TV programmers to stick closer to the party line on “political and propaganda discipline” and is clamping down on the use of international news footage from foreign satellites and news companies.

The State Administration of Radio, Film & Television (SARFT) said local TV stations should stick to international news reports provided by the state-run China Central Television (CCTV) and China Radio Intl. (CRI).

“Recently, some foreign news agencies and media have used a variety of methods to sell international news material to domestic local TV stations, which have clear political intentions,” the statement on SARFT’s Web site said.

Fearful that such reports could be used to corrupt public opinion, SARFT reiterated previous demands that local news broadcasters “strengthen their political sensitivity” and avoid using international news material form foreign sources to produce international news programs or special coverage about international affairs.

The notice is aimed at reminding broadcasters of similar rules issued in 2002 that, with time, have fallen into disuse.

The rules also ban the use of non-approved video footage, even when accompanied by voiceover scripts provided by official news agency Xinhua.

Chinese domestic media, particularly TV, have opened up dramatically in recent years as the state withdraws from a direct ownership role, but there has been increased competition and pressure to produce better content as the market goes digital.

Many local stations, particularly in the big cities, are using reports by foreign satellite broadcasters and news services to provide reports, such as three Shanghai stations that have used Reuters and Associated Press material in recent years to compile reports.

But Chinese cadres say news reporting is a key area on which it intends to keep a tight grip.

The rules demand broadcasting administrators at all levels keep a close watch on local broadcasters and call for “correction for any wrong operations”.

Crackdown comes hard on the heels of new restrictions on foreign magazines setting up in China — one of the factors behind the banning of Rolling Stone magazine last month after just one issue. A new magazine, called Audio Video Monthly, has appeared in its place.