The increasing popularity of Western television streaming into the Chinese media sector, especially online, has been posing new challenges for China’s censors. Many UK and US television shows are subject to censorship as they contain questionable content – whether of a societal, sexual or political nature. In light of this, and other reasons, the Chinese government has taken a few American television shows off of the country’s main video streaming websites, including Youku.com and Sohu.com.
This adds to last month’s new regulation, which stipulated that every UK and US produced television show must be vetted prior to gaining a license for streaming online. For example, the anti-pornography authorities within the Beijing Municipal Cultural Market Administrative Law Enforcement Unit fined Sino Corp recently as they were accused of showing illicit content and breaking the newly implemented regulations. Sino Corp’s fine totaled 5.1 million RMB, and Sino Corp also reported that the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television have also revoked the company’s ‘Internet Publication License’ and ‘License for Online Transmission of Audio-Visual Programs’.
Changes to online TV streaming
The newest changes demonstrate a turn-around in the original attitude towards online video streaming. Initially, Chinese authorities took a very hands-off approach. But this creates a more vulnerable environment, leaving American television distributors in the dark as to which television show might be cancelled next. It doesn’t help that copyright issues are not top priority within China’s Internet circles anyway.
The television shows that were taken down from streaming websites and banned include popular shows like The Big Bang Theory, The Good Wife, NCIS and The Practice. No notice was given for these actions and there has been an immediate backlash on Chinese social media, with the term ‘Western North Korea’ being used to describe China, and as a result the term was quickly blocked off search engines.
Why censorship and why these particular shows?
There is confusion and a lot of rumours surrounding China’s reasons for the censoring. Although China does not always feel the need to justify its actions, television and streaming providers need to analyse the past and predict what is going to happen in the future in order to secure their business.
None of the abovementioned shows have sexual or political content that might raise censorships’ alarms so there are rumors that the actions demonstrate a defensive move from a threatened domestic television and film sector. Thus, increasing regulations and blocking these shows may be an attempt at saving CCTV and stopping the decline in domestic television revenues and viewers.
However, perhaps, as said by Time, the blocked shows “are just too wild and crazy for impressionable Chinese youth to handle”. The Big Bang Theory, for example, is so popular that it has reached 1.3 billion hits, equivalent to one per person in China. But this position does seem rather doubtful, as even shows like House of Cards, which portray Chinese government officials and their sketchy connections, as well as Breaking Bad, which also has some darker material, have remained untouched by the censors.
Foreign television on the rise in China
Foreign television has been extremely popular in China, especially through video streaming websites. Topping the list of most-watched television shows are American zombie drama The Walking Dead, the sitcom 2 Broke Girls, as well as House of Cards.
State-run CCTV has also just started airing HBO’s medieval-themed Game of Thrones without dubbing, although there are doubts as to how much has been censored, as some aspects of the show have a very sexual angle.
American companies that license television dramas for online streaming in China are nervously following the governments’ recent moves, and the market is demonstrating this. Shares for affected companies fell following the news of the television shows being banned, in response to rumors and confusion as to the reasons behind these actions.
Therefore, companies will have to be more careful about selecting and introducing shows to the Chinese market, out of fear that they will not be approved or removed at a later date, potentially threatening revenues in the licensing sector.
As for the Chinese video streaming websites, they will have to find other ways to source their revenues. For instance, they might increase their focus on Chinese regional television shows, or bring in more shows from the region. This is not too hard, as Korean and Taiwanese television shows are already popular in China, and they will jump at the opportunity to take a larger share of the Chinese market.
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Keywords: TV shows China China’s censors crackdown on US TV shows
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US Television is a great civilizing force.... almost certain crap like that will only ever be said by an American.... The great country. OH what a load of shit! The Big Bang theory has hardly anything political, but it has loads of sexual undertones!!! very cleverly hidden in the nuances and satire....and thats what makes it so great.... as for the other shows... well what China does is China's business really.... and so far their society hasn't turned to the shit hole that America and most other western societies have become. And most well of Chinese don't want to leave...In my experience for vacations and shopping yes, but I've found its usually the less fortunate who are itching to leave mainland China to make a better life for themselves... which is understandable .
May 22, 2014 09:16 Report Abuse
China fears free thought more than political satire. Most Chinese are indoctrinated to have an apathy towards political discussion or anything that isn't inane for that matter. Popular show demonstrate that life is good if you are reasonable, rational, independent and not tied down by gov't/family obligations. The biggest risk is that Chinese will KNOW and WANT a better life.
May 19, 2014 14:29 Report Abuse
yes, but a lot of the emigrants aren't abroad to assimilate into a modern culture. the chinese i've heard just salivate over pensions, subsidized health care and education. they have little interest in western values, because they feel they are superior even when escaping to our countries. they're in it for the money and free stuff, and often to escape oppressing family obligations. very few chinese have much to say for themselves: no hobbies, interests, ntellectual pursuits or values other than greed. i met exactly one chinese biology student during my studies, and he eventually told me he only studied biology because a company needed a certified expert to approve and sign off their wastewater. i'm sure he's being paid well. but the only environment chinese care about is their own lifestyle.
May 19, 2014 17:03 Report Abuse
You hit it right on the head. Big Bang Theory is not dangerous because it is overtly political, it is dangerous because it promotes a fulfilling middle-class life with dignity. Making a living wage. Not being afraid of your boss. Having rights. Having hobbies. Going out on the weekend. Living in a nice apartment which you can afford and even just having time for friends and a social life. And in a country where lifestyle and economics are products of the political machine, social change forces the hand of political change.
May 20, 2014 14:25 Report Abuse
that is because homosexuality is normal and acceptable. Maybe shows like this, will help Chinese people to understand that it is not wrong/weird to be homosexual. Casual sex is also very normal in the western world (and dare i say it, in China too). The only reason the Government is doing this, is so the Chinese shows will prosper. I think the Chinese youth are too clever for that. There are many other ways to watch your favourite tv shows from all over the world. www.watchseries.It
May 19, 2014 14:37 Report Abuse
I cant believe someone like you exists. You probably interact with much more homosexuals than you can imagine. Who are you to tell people who they are allowed to love. You are very strange, bizarre, disgusting, vile, degenerate, perverse or even just 'low', base, and vulgar. Wake up, There is more to life than spreading HATE. See people for there qualities.
May 20, 2014 13:31 Report Abuse
According to a recent poll from the Washington Post, 59% of Americans are in favor of marriage equality, and a little over 50% say the Constitution guarantees the right to gay marriage. About six in 10 Catholics, non-evangelical Protestants and eight in 10 with no religious affiliation support it. Three-quarters of Americans younger than 30 support same-sex marriage, while less than half of seniors say the same. Yes, it is not universally accepted, but to pretend that the majority of dissenters are not senior citizens is also wrong. Moreover, we also see that the opinion towards homosexuality is changing rapidly, going from 38% in favor of gay marriage in 2004 to 59% today. The main reason for this is not television, but rather that arguments against homosexuality are that it is disgusting to non-homosexuals and the Bible says it is wrong. The Bible says a lot of things which are not applicable in today's world, eg, women are property, it's OK to own slaves, one cannot mix fibers in clothing. Homosexuality being wrong is just another morality which has changed with time. And just because you find gay sex disgusting does not mean that other people having it impacts you in any way, shape or form. Chou Doufu is disgusting but obviously people who eat it are not. To be honest, I would have thought that living in China, you would know what it feels like to be marginalized solely because you are not a part of, "traditional culture," which would give you a certain level of empathy for others. Finally, if your argument has to resort to childish name-calling, then you have already lost. http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/support-for-same-sex-marriage-hits-new-high-half-say-constitution-guarantees-right/2014/03/04/f737e87e-a3e5-11e3-a5fa-55f0c77bf39c_story.html
May 20, 2014 14:18 Report Abuse
You seem like a very angry person. i am far from being a bigot. I respect everyone's religion, gender and sexual preference. You believe being gay is a choice. You are wrong, just the same as your gender, you cant choose. I guess in your case, it is also the same as your religion, you probably didn't choose it. It only has to do where you were born. if you were born in Iraq, you would be Muslim, if you were born in China, maybe you would be Buddhist. Try not to be so angry.
May 20, 2014 18:14 Report Abuse