2018-09-21 12:29:24

China’s media regulator is planning to limit airtime for imported television shows, and to introduce a blanket ban on foreign programs about current affairs.

The National Radio and Television Administration (NRTA) released the draft regulation Thursday, seeking public opinion on two sets of rules pertaining to imported television programs and overseas artists, respectively. The draft specifically singles out current affairs news programs, and would ban individuals and organizations from importing such content. Programs that negatively affect China’s sovereignty or incite national hatred, or shows whose production staff have expressed questionable views, would not receive any screen time under the new rule.

China recently tightened control over foreign television shows broadcast online — video-streaming site Bilibili removed several foreign shows last year, pending their review — but this is the first time the state media watchdog has formalized rules restricting online streaming of imported programs. Under the draft regulation, television networks would not be able to allocate more than 30 percent of their daily airtime to foreign shows belonging to certain genres such as movies, dramas, animated series, and documentaries, and including programs from Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macau.

If passed, the draft regulation would also ban all imported content from being broadcast during prime time, or from 7 to 10 p.m. Previously, a 2004 regulation capped daily airtime for imported dramas at 25 percent of that genre, and before that, TV stations could dedicate up to 15 percent of their 6 to 10 p.m. slot to foreign dramas. However, it is unclear how the rule would affect streaming sites like Bilibili, which recently announced a partnership with U.S. network Discovery Channel.

In another set of draft rules, the NRTA took aim at overseas artists contracted for domestic productions. They propose that for television dramas, at least one of the lead actors, as well as either the director or screenwriter, must be from the Chinese mainland, and that foreigners in the production unit should not exceed one-fifth of the total staff. 

Editor: Bibek Bhandari.

(Header image: A user watches ‘Teletubbies’ on a cell phone in Shanghai, Sept. 21, 2018. Courtesy of Xiao Jing)