Sun TV signal blocked in China

Satellite channel loses permission for mainland broadcasts

BEIJING -- China has revoked permission for cable operators to distribute commercial network Sun TV due to its outspoken talk shows, sources said on Monday, as part of a government crackdown on content deemed sensitive and too bold.

The country's censors have become increasingly intolerant of content that pushes the envelope on politically incorrect or sensitive topics. Police have detained about 3,500 people in a crackdown on online pornography so far this year and closed thousands of Web sites.

"From Dec 5, audiences in mainland China cannot receive our signals, but the programing is still broadcast in Hong Kong and overseas," said an employee at Sun TV's parent company in Hong Kong. He declined to give his name or title for fear of political repercussions.

"The ministry responsible for this did not notify Sun TV beforehand. So far their reasons are unclear, but we are trying to get an explanation."

A media industry source with knowledge of the move said: "Sun's broadcast rights were revoked because guests called for political reform."

Sun TV is fully owned by Hong Kong-listed Sun Television Cybernetworks Enterprise Ltd. The stock fell by 3.48% in morning trade on Monday, underperforming a 1.26% drop in the overall market.

Talk shows broadcast by the channel, founded by Chinese talk show celebrity Yang Lan before being acquired by think-tank researcher-turned-businessman Chen Ping, had recently become bolder and featured politically outspoken guests.

Chen and the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television could not immediately be reached for comment.

Sun TV reached a limited audience in China, primarily in higher-income residential compounds. Sun TV signals would still be available to high-end hotels, the media industry source said, but this could not be independently confirmed.

"The State Administration of Radio, Film and Television shut it down last week. They didn't say
for how long," said an employee of Ruite Audio and Video Trade Co., which oversees cable distribution licenses in the capital, Beijing.

"They didn't give any reason."

Besides Hong Kong, Sun TV programs are also distributed in Taiwan, Macau and countries in Southeast Asia.

Beijing has become stricter on televised and online content over the last few years, gradually restricting some of the more creative television programs and blocking access to popular overseas social sites such as Youtube, Facebook and Twitter.

It has begun blocking Google's new document sharing platforms, and earlier this year ordered the Internet giant to change the way online searches are processed on its Chinese site, after accusations that porn was easily accessible.

Crackdowns on piracy and pornography since this summer have also closed some popular portals that hosted blogs and allowed users to share photos, videos and other content.

BTChina, which allowed music and video sharing, had its license revoked and said it would no longer allow video downloads, the China Daily reported last week.

Last month, the Ministry of Public Security's anti-pornography campaign was extended to WAP sites that provide content to mobile phones.

The editor of the only Chinese newspaper to interview U.S. President Barack Obama during his visit last month was subsequently demoted.