China Censor Orders 'Agent Carter,' 'Empire' Taken Down From Streaming Sites

'Agent Carter'

According to new rules, foreign dramas looking to be shown in China must present the full first season, with subtitles, to the censorship board for clearance.

China's broadcasting watchdog has ordered Agent Carter and Empire to be taken down from online streaming sites as part of significant new guidelines for foreign content in the world's fastest growing TV market.

According to new rules from the State General Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television (SAPPRFT), new foreign dramas looking to be shown in China must present the full first season, with subtitles, to the censorship board for clearance.

It's a ruling that could have a huge impact on the online TV market, especially outfits trying to get their shows into China, because it means the Chinese censor wants to say what goes on air a whole season in advance.

Sources in the online TV sector, close to SAPPRFT, confirmed the news to THR and the report was also carried on Mtime, the country's leading movie site.

Other shows to be affected include Shameless, which was taken off because it was too sensitive and needs to be "re-censored." Stalker, Two Broke Girls and American Horror Story are still online but they may face censorship issues, according to sources.

And it's not just U.S. dramas that will come under state scrutiny — the South Korean drama Pinocchio may also be taken off.

This will not affect companies like Netflix, which has pioneered the online release of full seasons of shows like Marco Polo and House of Cards, before showing them in weekly installments. However, it could impact most other foreign dramas seeking online access in China, which generally release shows on a week-by-week basis.

Chinese online video players, such as Tencent, Alibaba, Youku Tudou, Baidu's iQiyi and, have spent more and more on Hollywood content, but everyone is waiting to see how the regulatory environment develops. Among the big content deals made last year has been news that Alibaba had struck a deal with Lionsgate to bring the Twilight saga and other films to China, while The Simpsons made their way over the Great Wall for the first time via a Fox deal with online video firm Sohu. 

In September, SAPPRFT said it must approve all foreign TV shows before they can be posted on video sites and that sites must pull unapproved shows at some point early this year. The government is also currently engaged in a major crackdown on what it deems as morally questionable content such as sex and violence.

Guidelines from the broadcast regulator cover scenes of one-night stands, extramarital affairs, partner-swapping, flirtation, rape, incest, necrophilia, prostitution, sexual perversion and masturbation.

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