Online video and TV services in China could face fines if they refuse to employ censors

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 11 June, 2015, 4:11pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 11 June, 2015, 4:11pm

Under a new draft regulation released this week, online radio and television service providers in China will face fines of up to 30,000 yuan (US$4,835) if they do not employ specialised censors for their programmes.

The new rules, announced by the Legal Affairs Office of the State Council on Wednesday, also ban online content providers from making their own political news shows, according to state media.

The draft law, now in the public consultation phase, states that all online programmes – movies, TV dramas, cartoons, and documentaries – must comply with the country's laws and regulations on broadcast content.

Online broadcasters who do not institute a content censorship regime or do not delete content in breach of the regulation in a timely fashion could face fines of up to 30,000 yuan, the draft regulation said.

Investors in content providers found to be in breach of the regulation could also face a fine of up to 20,000 yuan.

China's online video market has exploded in recent years, with total transaction value in 2014 rising 76.4 per cent on the year before to 23.97 billion yuan (US$3.88 billion), according to consultancy iResearch. In-video and pre-roll advertising was the primary source of revenue for all content providers in the period.

On Wednesday, Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi announced that it was investing US$1 billion in video content development, entering into a partnership with more than 100 content producers, including iQiyi and Youku Tudou, to provide shows for its smartphone, television and set-top box video platforms.

Online video providers have struggled in the past to stay on the good side of Chinese censors. In mid-2014, Beijing ordered the removal of many popular American TV shows, including The Big Bang Theory and NCIS, from online platforms, leading to widespread criticism from fans.

“[The removal order] will only encourage internet users to download the programmes from piracy websites,” one fan told the Post at the time.

In November, new rules announced by the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television (SAPPRFT) also called for websites to better police "lewd" content. Scenes involving marital infidelity or showing "too much physical contact" had to be cut, the regulator said, according to state media reports.