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(May 02, 2008) On February 14, 2008, China's State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (SARFT) issued a ten-point circular that tightens restrictions on foreign animated works. The purpose of the circular is to further standardize order in and to strengthen regulation and supervision of the broadcast of televised animated works, so as "to create a favorable market environment for our country's animation industry." (Guang Dian Zong Ju guanyu jiaqiang dianshi donghua pian bochu guanli de tongzhi, SARFT Web site, Feb. 14, 2008, The circular extends by one hour the prime-time ban on such programs; as of May 1, 2008, local channels may not show them from 5 p.m. to 9.m. Joint Sino-foreign animated works must be approved by SARFT in order to be aired during prime time (item 2). The restrictions will affect such popular programs as Spongebob Squarepants and Japanese manga. Local television stations must obtain approval from SARFT to introduce a foreign animation show, and they are prohibited from broadcasting those that have not been approved for introduction, the circular states (item 4). In addition, channels with minors as the target audience must "strictly implement" a daily broadcast ratio of China-made animations to imported works of 7:3 (item 6). Domestic, Sino-foreign made, and imported cartoon works must go through examination and licensing procedures (item 5). The circular calls upon television broadcast institutions at every level to increase awareness of protection of intellectual property rights. It also encourages local television administrative organs and television stations to increase funding for the purchase and production of domestic cartoons (item 8). (Id.; Clifford Coonan, China Extends Restrictions on Foreign Animation, VARIETY ASIA, Feb. 21, 2008, available at

Yet another tightening of the media was imposed effective January 31, 2008, with the entry into force of the Provisions on Management of Online Audio and Video Services (Audiovisual Provisions), which were jointly issued by the SARFT and the Ministry of Information Industry on December 20, 2007. (Hulianwang shi ting jiemu fuwu guanli guiding [Provisions on Management of Online Audio and Video Services] (last visited Apr. 22, 2008).) "Audio-visual program services" are defined as activities of providing services of production, aggregation, integration, and streaming of audiovisual programs to the public over the Internet, including both fixed-line and mobile access. Although SARFT has regulated online content for years, it reportedly has not actively enforced the rules. Under the new Provisions, service providers must be either state-owned or state-controlled, and now would-be providers must obtain a permit from the administration for radio, film, and television at the provincial level or above (with the exception of radio or TV stations at or above the municipal level and state news agencies).

However, based on a SARFT announcement of February 3, 2008, audiovisual service providers in operation before the Audiovisual Provisions' issuance may simply re-register without becoming state-owned or controlled, as long as their activities are lawful. Article 16 of the Audiovisual Provisions lists ten prohibited types of broadcast content that essentially mirror those set forth in the 2002 Regulations and 2006 Screenplay Provisions discussed above, although item 7 on prohibiting violence, etc., is slightly different. It adds language prohibiting "the offense of leading minors to violate the law" and the "heightening of violence, sex, gambling, and terrorist activities." A SARFT notice issued on December 28, 2007 (the Notice on Increased Monitoring of Online Audiovisual Services), confirmed "article 16 is intended to prohibit the broadcast of content that is 'reactionary, vulgar or violent" and elaborated on the permit system set forth in the Audiovisual Provisions. (New SARFT Rules Tightens Online Audio-Video Regulations, PRC TELECOMS, MEDIA & TECHNOLOGY LAW NEWSLETTER [TMTLN] (Jan. 11, 2008) available at
; SARFT Issues Notice Elaborating on Online Audiovisual Rules, TMTLN, (Jan. 21, 2008), available at
; Newsflash: Existing Online AV Providers Exempted from SARFT Rules, TMTLN (Feb. 4, 2008), available at

Author: Wendy Zeldin More by this author
Topic: Communications More on this topic
Jurisdiction: China More about this jurisdiction

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Last updated: 05/02/2008