China to restrict satellite TV stations to one foreign programme

Reuters

SHANGHAI, Oct 21 (Reuters) - China will allow satellitetelevision stations to buy the right to broadcast only oneforeign programme each year from 2014 as part of newrestrictions to push "morality-building" and educational shows,state media reported on Monday.

The official Shanghai Securities Journal, citing an order bythe General Administration for Press and Publication to domestictelevision stations, also said foreign programmes could not bebroadcast in prime-time viewing hours from 7:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.during the year in which the broadcasting rights were purchased.

The new rules are an intensification of an earlier policyannounced in February, which capped the broadcast of foreigntelevision series to 50 episodes, and will result in fewerforeign series being broadcast in China.

The campaign also could accelerate a wider trend: themigration of domestic viewers away from broadcast televisiontoward pre-recorded shows downloaded from the Internet tocomputers and mobile devices.

The Chinese government is increasingly concerned about whatit sees as rising vulgarity in domestic television programming.At the same time, it has been moving to limit domestic channels'reliance on imported content.

The English-language Shanghai Daily said the newrestrictions were intended to crack down on the growing practiceof buying the copyright of proven foreign shows like "Britain'sGot Talent," then localising them without further modification,spawning shows like "China's Got Talent."

Such programming can be quickly monetised at minimal riskand is generally easy to sell to advertisers.

The new rules also stipulate that stations must increase theamount of public-interest programming such as documentaries,education and "morality-building" programmes to not less than 30percent of the total, and restrict the number of new musicaltalent shows to one every three months.

The Shanghai Daily quoted several programming directors atprovincial television stations, which increasingly rely onadvertising revenues instead of state subsidies, saying the newregulations would be tough on their operations.

Despite the government's controls, popular foreigntelevision shows are widely available as illegal downloads or onpirated DVDs.

In response to consumers' shift toward watching downloadedcontent on mobile devices, many domestic television broadcastershave moved to make shows available online or have signeddistribution partnerships with domestic video websites likeYouku Tudou Inc's Youku.com.

China committed to opening its domestic media sector toforeign competition during negotiations to join the World TradeOrganization. Even so, it has maintained heavy restrictions onimported movies and television shows in order to provide roomfor state-controlled domestic producers.

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