China’s Censors Tighten Oversight Of Online Video Sector

China’s media regulator has moved to tighten censorship controls on online streaming platforms, in a move designed to bring them into line with traditional media.

A notice released by the country’s media watchdog, the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television (SAPPRFT) on Friday states that any content that isn’t allowed to be broadcast on television or screened at cinemas must not be streamed online either.

The notice, titled “On the Further Strengthening of Online Audio Visual Production and Broadcast Management,” described online content in need of “immediate guidance and control” including content containing “distorted values, overemphasized entertainment, vulgarity,” or that was “poor quality, low-brow and marked by imperfect language.”

In a meandering and wide-reaching spread, the notice states that content should “promote socialist core values” and “spread positive energy” and warns against “feudal” and “decadent” ideas such as “money worship, hedonism, and extreme individualism” that is creeping into some online content.

The notice specifically emphasizes that any TV or films that have not passed the censorship process must not be allowed to be streamed online. It also says that streaming platforms should not present content as a “Complete Version” or “Unabridged Version” of a show or film that has been censored for the big screen.

SAPRFT has been slowly moving towards regulating online programming in the same way as traditional media for many months now. In May 2016, the watchdog released a similar notice requiring registration of original online programming, including a statement of “ideological intention”.

The latest regulatory hurdle comes just as a new analysis from investment bank JP Morgan this week suggests the heavily loss-making online video sector could finally break even by 2019.

There are already 60 million paid subscriptions across the three leading platforms iQIYI, Youku Tudou, and Tencent video, which is backed by Internet and e-commerce giants Baidu, Alibaba, and Tencent respectively. JP Morgan projects that number rising to 234 million by 2020, according to the report.