China extends foreign toon ban


BEIJING -- Bedtime for "Sponge Bob": China is extending its ban on foreign-made cartoons airing in prime time, according to new regulations from the state television regulator.

Animated programming made by foreign producers is now excluded from all channels between 5 p.m. and 9 p.m. each day, starting May 1. It also increased the total amount of domestically-produced programming that channels aimed at children should air from 60 percent to 70 percent.

The announcement follows a State Administration of Radio, Film, and Television statement earlier this month that said it had completed various assessment and implementation plans, and asked provincial radio, film and television regulators to comment before Feb. 20, when the new regulation was issued, although the new regulations were issued on Feb. 19.

The SARFT statement also said that special funds will be made available for further development of the domestic animation industry, but was not specific as to the amount or means of distribution.

Foreign cartoons have been a hot-button issue for Chinese TV regulators, who have regularly pointed to the need for more and better domestic animation. Almost two years ago to the day, SARFT banned television shows that use a mix of animation and live action, a la "Roger Rabbit," to gain classification as being locally-made animation and contributing toward its percentage of overall domestic content.