CHINA BLOG BLOTTER: Beijing Puts On A Serious Face Against Foreign TV Series

On February 13, 2012, Mainland China’s State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (SARFT) announced an official restriction on imported TV series.
So exactly how is this partial-ban going to work? Pretty exactly, it would seem! The SARFT have issued no less than seven detailed ordinances for television broadcasters. One, foreign series are to run for no longer than 50 episodes. Two, a channel is not to broadcast them during prime time (7:30 PM – 10:00 PM). Three, the total running time of these shows are not to exceed 25 percent of the time allocated to TV series on a single day. Four, each channel that obtains a foreign TV series cannot resell it to any other channels before airing.  Five, the government must approve all foreign TV shows before broadcasting. Six, no TV series that contain violent or vulgar content are allowed. And seven, channels are not to show too many TV series from the same country or region.
If a channel violates any of these rules, the Chinese government will hand out “severe punishments.”
The Chinese government’s tight control over media output is nothing new. This decree is only a stricter version of the previous guidelines. The question to ask now is why? According to the Chinese government’s top English-language media outlet, The China Daily, this ban aims to “improve the quality of imported TV programs and to enrich the content of the shows available in high definition.”
Other media outlets, like BBC News, cry foul. The BBC article reporting this ban reminds readers of Hu Jintao’s message back in January. Hu advised his communist colleagues to remain vigilant against western cultural influence that may be part of the “strategic plot of westernizing and dividing China.”
Could this ban, as BBC implies, be China’s method of vigilance against the break-down of Chinese society? Or, is it a tactic to tighten the communist party’s grip on the political atmosphere of the nation? If the latter is true, Beijing’s insecurity is on display.
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