Regulator tries to tame online video, again – China’s latest society and culture news

Society & Culture

A summary of the top news in Chinese society and culture for June 2, 2017. Part of the daily SupChina news roundup "The China-Arab Expo."

The State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film, and Television (SAPPRFT), China’s media watchdog, recently issued a notice banning online entertainment shows with “incorrect values” (不正确的价值取向 bù zhèngquè de jiàzhí qǔxiàng) in order to “further spread advanced socialist culture” and “cultivate a healthy and positive internet atmosphere.” The ban is aimed at any digital platform that can host video content. It emphasizes that shows streamed online are subject to the same standards of radio and TV programs, and that they should “consciously stay away from vulgar taste.”

The notice also prohibits the circulation of uncut footage or censored content from authorized shows, possibly a reaction to the wide online circulation of 14 minutes of violent scenes that were deleted from the version of the Hollywood film Logan screened in China in February.

On the social media platform Weibo, the notice drew a barrage of criticism (in Chinese) from internet users. One commenter wrote, “If there is a ranking of Chinese government departments that people hate the most, SAPPRFT must be the first.” Others, who were capable of jumping the Great Firewall, commented, “Since we can get access to Twitter and YouTube, why does SAPPRFT still think that these regulations will be effective?”

SAPPRFT has been trying to regulate online video since at least 2006 (before the film regulatory body SARFT merged with press and news regulator GAPP). However, whereas cinema and broadcast TV are completely under the control of SAPPRFT, online video is subject to regulation by a number of different government organizations, including the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC). This means that SAPPRFT orders do not always have teeth.