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China Advances Film Industry Law, Shuns Western Values

Chinese media must not promote ‘Western lifestyle,’ satirize classic works of Chinese literature or encourage decadent behavior, according to a new directive from media regulators on Monday. Instead they should promote ‘positive energy.’

The guidelines were issued by the State Administration for Press, Publishing, Radio, Film and Television (SAPPRFT.) They were reported by official media, including the state-owned Xinhua news agency.

Programs will be banned if they promote overnight fame, the flaunting of wealth, hedonism, or fanaticism for pop stars, Internet celebrities and wealth. Offending producers or broadcasters could have their licenses suspended or revoked.

The circular is the latest in a growing series of controls over Chinese media. Others include limits on Sino-foreign media joint ventures and the recent banning of independent news gathering by online media.

The circular coincided with the discussion by the National People’s Congress Standing Committee on Monday of the draft film law. As well as covering areas such as film distribution, shooting permits and censorship the proposed law also covers morality issues.

According to a Xinhua report on the new draft, film industry personnel should “(strive for) excellence in professional skills and moral integrity.” On Friday SAPPRFT said that it would also set up an ethics committee guiding industry personnel towards ‘core socialist values.’

The draft law stipulates fines of up to RMB500,000 and other penalties for companies involved in box office fraud, an area of recurring problems that has shed some doubt on the claimed growth of China’s theatrical film market. Xinhua also reports the draft law as stipulating that cinemas should give two thirds of their screenings and time slots to domestic Chinese films. It also reaffirms existing rules saying that films should not promote terrorism or extremism.

Films that “might cause psychological or physical discomfort” to viewers, notably minors, should carry warnings. But the measure falls short of a film rating or classification system comparable to those in much of the rest of the world. That means film releases in China must still be open to audiences of all ages.

Approvals needed before film production begins will be devolved from national level to local film authorities.

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