Around Asia: China tightens censorship of online videos

In Other News - January 24th, 2014

Chinese authorities are now requiring online filmmakers to gain licenses and report the content before posting their videos as part of stricter regulations to further cement the Great Firewall of China.

The latest crackdown comes after the Chinese broadcast administration demanded that filmmakers register with their real names and production companies to obtain operating licenses. They will also have to report the content of their films before it can be posted on video-hosting sites, which has become a free-wheeling platform for filmmakers to showcase their creativity.

The State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television said the tighter policies are aimed at improving supervision of the Internet, cultivate a “healthy and civilized” online environment and prevent programs with excessively sexual and violent content from having a harmful influence on society.

Broadcasting authorities already censor uploaded vidoes with sexually explicit and violent content, but makers of microfilms have waded into the genre to gain audiences.

The regulation “is definitely more limiting,” said Mark Natkin, managing director of Marbridge Consulting, a Beijing-based internet and mobile research company.

“Among other things they have to now get a license which they are not assured of getting,” he said. “And even if they get a license it means that they still need to clean up their content and as such it will probably be less attractive. Sex and violence both sell.”

Under previous regulations, violators face fines of 20,000 to 50,000 yuan and costs for possible damages, while they may also be punished for a criminal offense if a crime is found to have occurred.

Critics slammed the regulation’s political undertones which targets general online expression. The policies have led to the arrest of dozens for allegedly spreading “sensitive” rumors that authorities see could harm national interest.

Wei Jiangang, who makes microfilms with homosexual themes, said the industry depicts a multitude of topics which the government considers “very sensitive”.

“The only purpose of such a policy I think is to affect the creativity of microfilm making, and bring it into the regular censorship system as to carry out ideological control of this gray area of online video,” Wei said.

“In cyberspace, there are loads of various opinions and voices, so the government surely doesn’t want the online video market to escape censorship.”

By Maesie Bertumen

Image: Eric Constantineau/Flickr