SARFT cracks down on Web sites

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BEIJING -- China has busted seven Web sites for operating online TV stations without a broadcast license, webcasting news and opening provincial offices without permission from the State Administration of Radio Film and Television, according to a notice posted to the SARFT Web site.

Reiterating Beijing's desire for strict control over broadcasts to China's fast-growing population of more than 123 million Internet users, the SARFT notice accused the Beijing-based sites of forging government documents to attract investors.

Experts say that China's booming Internet will help drive a growth in advertising spending here that could see the country replace Japan as the world's No. 2 ad market by 2010.

"The acts by these illegal online TV stations violate article six of central SARFT's regulations on online broadcasting and audio visual programming," the notice, dated Dec. 25 but posted late Thursday, said.

One of the seven accused sites, China International Online Television Station, or CCnetTV, displayed a bank account number for potential investors and bore a logo on its Web site (www.ccnettv.com) that resembled that of state-owned flagship broadcaster China Central Television (www.cctv.com).

If found guilty, the seven sites face the loss of their Web licenses, being banned from the Internet and fines of 10,000-30,000 yuan ($1,282-$3,845), SARFT said.

CCTV's own online broadcasting channel (www.zhibo.cctv.com) has a limited audience for programming selected from across the company's terrestrial and cable channels. Though limited in viewership, legitimate advertising from big companies runs on the site.

On Friday, the Web site of would-be competitor CCnetTV was still accessible on the mainland. Clicking buttons for the site's webcasts, however, provided no results. Its splash page had two advertisements, one for cooking oil and one for a martial arts school.

Officials at CCnetTV could not be reached by telephone, but the site's "about us" section claims it is the first "legal" online television station inside China.

The CCnetTV site also claims to have been in operation for more than three years and to have received nearly six million page views this month alone. The site bears official looking stamps and boasts more than 40 sub-stations carrying its content nationwide.

Another busted site, China Online Television Station, posted an "under construction" message on its site (www.cntv.com) Friday. Its webcast channels advertised content about movies, tourism, President Hu Jintao, the military, cartoons and daily life.

The five other Web sites SARFT busted were China International Media Online Television Station (www.cimn.tv), China International Economic Television Station (www.ccentv.com or www.ccentv.tv), Central Online Television Station One (www.vctv.cn ), Central Online Television Station Two (www.tvch.tv) and the Zhongya Online Television Station (www.zytv.tv).



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