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A Long Line of Regulations: SARFT Now Turns Attention to Internet Video Censorship

Amid the flurry of SARFT’s most recent wave of slashing and burning Chinese film and TV programming, foreign film studios co-opting the Chinese internet as a potential distribution platform, and the out-of-control proliferation of videos and internet memes informing Chinese media and popular attitudes, SARFT has decided to establish a formal platform for censoring internet videos.The information, which appeared on the Sina Tech blog, was summarized by C. Custer for the Penn Olson blog:

According to SARFT vice-chief Zhang Haitao, the administration will regulate IPTV streaming services, mobile video services, and traditional internet television services like Youku and Tudou.

Given the popularity of sites like youku and tudou as a distribution tool for both independent film ventures and underground messages alike, SARFT’s tightening of online video access comes as an expected step in a period of considerable new regulations. While censorship of sites like Sina Weibo has been partially subverted by specialized internet lingo, it remains to be seen how video-makers will rise against these new restrictions. Furthermore, the restrictions may certainly impact 20th Century Fox intentions to bypass both quotas for foreign films and censorship laws by distributing through outlets like youku.

Some of the activities of SARFT’s very active past few months are detailed in an article for China Copyright and Media, which addresses SARFT’s busy season as a result of the “12th Five-Year Plan for National Economic and Social Development of PRC (2011-2015)” discussed and decided by the People’s National Congress in March 2011. Addressing not only the specific reforms SARFT has enacted in recent months, the article also discussed why SARFT, of all government agencies, seems to be so relentless in carrying out new reforms:

SARFT has a conservative tradition at the Central level, and follows the Central Committee closely. Second, SARFT is under the most pressures from Party elders and conservatives. Many former senior cadres and officials watch TV frequently and will telephone SARFT if and when they see something they don’t like. This is why SARFT is under more pressure than other cultural administrations.


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