China Watchdog Says TV Censorship Rules Should Apply Online Too

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China's online crackdown will ban scenes of TV shows depicting everything from rape and incest to extramarital affairs and masturbation

China's new censorship rules will mean TV shows streamed online will have to comply to the same strict standards as traditional broadcasters.

Luo Jianhui, director of the online video unit of China's broadcasting regulator, said online censorship rules would bring the Internet in line with over-the-air media, which bans everything from nudity to depictions of extramarital affairs. 

"What is forbidden to traditional media, is also forbidden to online media. And what is encouraged for traditional media, new media should encourage it more," Luo, head of the Internet audio and video unit of the powerful State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television's (SAPPRFT), told a forum in Shanghai.

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Quoted by, Luo said some producers made vulgar works, and that this was socially irresponsible behavior on the edge of the law.

China has recently tightened up censorship of online content and, 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 by early next year.

It's been a busy few weeks for edicts from SAPPRFT, as the government tightens its control of the Internet. Earlier this week, SAPPRFT said it wants to send filmmakers and TV producers to the countryside "to do field study and experience life."

A more censorious environment coincides with a boom in tie-ups between China and Hollywood. HBO and Tencent have agreed to make HBO content available on a broad basis in China, including shows like The Newsroom, Boardwalk Empire, Rome and Band of Brothers.

It is hard, however, to see how HBO's traditionally edgy shows, which often feature graphic violence and sex as well as adult language, will make it past China's online censors. Among the things banned under the new rules are scenes of one-night stands, extramarital affairs, partner-swapping, flirtation, rape, incest, necrophilia, prostitution, sexual perversion and masturbation. HBO and Tencent, however, say they are confident their content will get through to Chinese users intact.

Luo said the domestic online video and online industry was set to grow by 48.8 percent to $6.15 billion, but the quality level needed to be improved.

"We must promote the development of online videos and audios, focusing on quality rather than quantity, and improve the quality and level of the online video and audio content," Luo said.

Just as President Xi Jinping had pointed, there were problems with content produced, and issues with plagiarism and use of stereotypes.

"Some programs deviate from reality, and there are also some vulgar phenomena in homemade content," he said.

SAPPRFT was planning to set up a fund to encourage "excellent new programs and the spread of innovation."