Chinese government imposes limit on foreign television programming

Business & Technology

Last Thursday, the National Radio and Television Administration released a draft of new regulations regarding the airing of foreign programming. According to the draft, which will be open to public discussion for 30 days, foreign shows will be banned during primetime, or from 7 to 10 pm. In the daytime, television networks are only allowed to air imported content if it doesn’t exceed 30 percent of total airtime.

The regulations state that foreign content that promotes extremist ideologies or incites social instability will be banned entirely. Any programming that damages the sovereignty or “dignity” of the nation will also be barred.

News programs that discussed current affairs were singled out in the notice, though the ban also applies to other forms of TV programming, such as foreign movies, animation, documentaries, variety shows, and cultural and educational programs. Notably, the cap on foreign programming isn’t extended to TV broadcasting alone, and includes online streaming.

Critics are afraid of the new policy’s impact on sites like Bilibili and AcFunTV, streaming sites that first established themselves as video-sharing platforms for foreign ACG (animation, comics, and games) culture. In the past few years, China’s media regulator has ramped up their oversight of online content, which has led to the removal of several popular foreign shows from sites such as Bilibili and AcFunTV.

This isn’t the first time the Chinese administration has enforced a cap on the airing of foreign television shows. Before 2004, imported TV programming was limited to 25 percent of daily airtime and capped at 15 percent during primetime. In 2004, new regulations were passed that forbade foreign dramas from being broadcast during primetime unless the shows were granted specific permission from China’s media regulator.