China body shuts down provincial IPTV operation

SARFT shutters Guangxi Telecom's Internet video services

BEIJING--China's broadcast authority has shut down the IPTV operations of a provincial telecommunications firm, the latest move by the government to keep the country's rapidly expanding media sector in check.
Earlier this month, the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television ordered Guangxi Telecom to close its Internet protocol television services, saying the southern provincial subsidiary of China Telecom lacked a broadcast license.

SARFT also told Shanghai Television and its parent the Shanghai Media Group to stop providing IPTV programs to the service Guangxi Telecom launched in early February.

According to local media, the service drew thousands of subscribers in just a few weeks and rapidly expanded to 14 cities within China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, the area just west of China's richest and most media-liberal province, Guangdong.

"Any unlicensed operations by telecom carriers in the IPTV sector will be deemed illegal and thus be halted or punished," SARFT reiterated in a public notice dated Feb. 12. that surfaced in local media reports this week.

The crackdown follows a January meeting of the State Council, China's cabinet, at which Premier Wen Jiabao called for acceleration of the integration of telecommunications with TV and radio and the Internet.

The meeting was followed by an official statement saying that  connecting the media networks was intended to boost the development of China's information and cultural sectors.

In a research note published on Friday, the U.S. Information Technology Office in Beijing said the central government's  long term plan could be good news for the broadcast sector, since companies in the sector will be able to offer more services.

"By punishing Guangxi Telecom, SARFT again alerted the telecom sector not to covet the broadcast business," USITO said.

The timetable for the integration of the different parts of China's media sector is unclear and analysts say a turf battle over who gets to issue what licenses controlling content on the Internet could continue for some time to come.
At least four licenses are required to launch an IPTV service in China, but they’re conferred by three different ministry-level organizations within the central government.
The MIIT issues licenses for IPTV operation, Internet content providers, and mobile value-added service providers. SARFT issues licenses for transmission of video and TV programs via the Internet and the Ministry of Culture issues the license for Internet culture businesses.