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China’s Top Brass Says Stricter Film, TV Censorship ‘Will Be the Norm’

Chinese authorities have pledged to make the recent state of heightened censorship and ideological control over film and TV content the new normal, state media sources said.

The position was put forth in the new “Guidelines on Deepening the Comprehensive Reform of the Film and TV Industry to Promote their Healthy Development,” one of 10 documents reviewed and ratified last week at a meeting of China’s high-level Central Commission for Deepening Overall Reform. Led by President Xi Jinping, the body is responsible for mapping out policy guidelines for the country’s economic, political and cultural reform and overseeing their implementation.

1905 Film, an outlet affiliated with one of China’s state-run broadcasting channels, said in an analysis posted to its social media account Wednesday that, “in the future, strict control of the film and TV industry will be the norm.” That’s because works of entertainment “are not just cultural or consumer goods – they are also carriers of mainstream ideology, and thus of enormous concern to the [Communist] Party and the country. Film and TV work cannot merely be approached from a commercial, market-based or entertainment perspective; it must be undertaken with strategic thinking from the national level, from the same battle lines that the country itself is fighting from.”

The ability to align oneself with the country’s ideological goals will now “become the basis for employment,” the analysis said.

It gave no further information about specific reforms or measures. Such guiding documents issued by Chinese authorities are often vague, but they provide an indication of which way the official winds are blowing. Last year, China put the Communist Party’s Propaganda Bureau in charge of the nation’s film industry, which analysts see as a means of tightening control over the already strictly censored medium.

The new entertainment guidelines show “that the state’s attitude to regulating the film and TV industry is extremely resolute, and that its determination to deepen reform of the film and TV industry is unshakable,” 1905 Film’s analysis said.

The guidelines praised new youth channels pushed out by streaming platforms, calling them “a key step in ensuring the healthy development of young people through the supervision of audiovisual programming.”

At the meeting of the central commission on reform, Xi gave a speech in which he stated that China’s reforms were currently “facing many new situations and problems” because of “increasing external uncertainties,” which must be addressed via “hard measures,” according to the official Xinhua news agency. Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and Politburo members Wang Huning and Han Zheng also attended the meeting.

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