'Big Bang Theory' Axed as China Steps Up Censorship of Overseas TV Online

CBS' "The Big Bang Theory"
CBS' "The Big Bang Theory"
 Michael Yarish/Warner Bros. Entertainment

China is stepping up censorship of foreign TV shows streamed online and has ordered leading video streaming websites to stop showing the popular shows The Good WifeThe Big Bang Theory, NCIS and The Practice.

The order has come down from the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television and the watchdog has not given any reason for the ruling.

The popular show The Blacklist has also had episodes that criticized the Chinese government cut recently.

As reported in The Hollywood Reporter earlier this month, SAPPRFT said it was planning to increase censorship of foreign content and warned that online companies such as Youku, Tencent and Sohu would have to closely vet content before making it available to stream.

Generally, the online streaming sites have operated with far more freedom to show edgy material such as The Walking Dead and House of Cards than the traditional media such as TV and cinema.

It’s long been baffling how the government allows a show like House of Cards to be seen in China, particularly the second season which had a storyline critical of Chinese government corruption.

However, it was generally suspected that the Kevin Spacey­­-starring depiction of sleaze, debauchery, graft and general malfeasance in Washington chimed with an acceptable message on the dangers of democratic institutions.

China's ambassador to the U.S., Cui Tiankai, has said he has seen every episode of House of Cards, which includes the line “Mao’s China is dead!”

The state news agency Xinhua wrote of how THR's coverage of the apparent crackdown had caused thousands of Chinese fans to protest online “at a perceived blow against freedom of choice” -- another sign of the surging popularity of Hollywood shows in China.

Meanwhile, the Chinese web giant Sina.com has made repeated apologies for allowing pornography onto its sites, which has led to it having its licenses for Internet publication and audio and video dissemination revoked.

"As one of the influential websites in China, Sina has failed to shoulder its due responsibility and we feel deeply sorry for that," Sina said in a statement to Xinhua.

The National Office Against Pornographic and Illegal Publications said that 20 articles and four videos posted on Sina.com were confirmed to have contained lewd and pornographic content following "a huge amount" of public tip-offs.

According to data from the research group Entgroup for 2012, Sohu has 144 U.S. and British TV shows, Tencent has 123 and Youku Tudou, 109. This compares with a quota of 34 foreign movies allowed into China on a revenue-sharing basis.

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