China Removes Unlicensed Foreign Movies and TV Shows From Streaming Sites

'Game of Thrones' could face problems with Chinese censors

The move is part of a broad crackdown on pornography and violence online.

China has introduced a raft of new rules that will remove unlicensed foreign films and TV shows from online video sites, as a much-heralded deadline kicked in on April 1.

Until late last year, online video sites largely were self-censoring, but the government is cracking down hard on pornography, violence or anything that might challenge the authority of the ruling Communist Party.

In September, the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television (SAPPRFT) announced it must approve all foreign TV shows before they can be posted on video sites, and producers must present the whole season for approval before it can be screened.

"Without a publication license, no overseas films or TV series are allowed to stream online," a notice from SAPPRFT carried on the Xinhua news agency said, adding that works not registered in official records will be removed starting on Wednesday.

The TV rules mean shows like Game of Thrones, The Newsroom and Band of Brothers could face delays of up to nine months before being broadcast.

It will also affect movies streamed online in China, the the world’s second-biggest film market, where Hollywood studios have started reaping profits from selling content to sites such as Youku Tudou, Baidu’s iQiyi, and Tencent. But negotiating its regulatory environment can be tricky, and censorship of movies and TV online will make the market more challenging.

Because they are tightly censored, and because domestically produced shows are so popular, most TV channels do not generally broadcast foreign fare, but streaming sites have become major providers of foreign TV shows for Chinese fans.

Separately, the Ministry of Culture said it would punish Internet companies including Tencent, Youku Tudou and iQiyi for hosting videos suspected of containing violence and pornography.

The offending material is primarily Japanese anime on the video streaming websites of Tencent, Youku Tudou, iQiyi, and Leshi, the Ministry of Culture said on its website.

The titles in question — Blood-C, Terror in Resonance and Highschool of the Dead — include scenes of violence, pornography, terrorism and crimes against public morality, the ministry said.

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