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Quotas may limit more foreign TV shows online

2014-07-31 13:17 China Daily Web Editor: Qian Ruisha

China's top media authority is likely to impose quotas on the licensing of overseas programs by video websites, local media reports.

Since last October, the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television is rumored to be discussing whether to follow the movie-import system by applying a quota system to TV shows, an anonymous industry insider told the Guangzhou-based Southern Metropolis Daily.

If applied, the policy could mean that video websites will be allowed to license only a limited number of overseas programs each year. This could have a huge impact on Chinese video websites, as overseas content continues to be one of their major attractions.

China's major video websites such as Sohu, Youku Tudou and Tencent are favorites of well-educated young audiences, especially for the diversity of their overseas content.

Sohu had exclusively licensed the popular US TV shows House of Cards, The Big Bang Theory, Saturday Night Live and The Ellen DeGeneres Show. More money will be reportedly spent on securing the rights to screen 100 US TV series from the coming fall season, 20 of which are expected to be exclusive to Sohu. The view count of US TV series represents one-fifth of the website's total and is expected to continue to grow.

Youku Tudou brands itself as a Korean entertainment hub, teaming with South Korea's top TV stations and entertainment companies, such as SBS and CJE& M. This year alone more than 10 South Korean TV series and entertainment shows are expected to be exclusively broadcast on Tudou.com.

In the past few months, the administration has drafted several restriction policies regarding Internet-based programs.

In March, the administration required in a notice that online content be examined by at least three government specialists. Programs should be removed immediately if they include inappropriate content such as promoting superstition or glamorizing violence, sex or gambling.

In late April, it required four popular US TV series, including The Good Wife and The Big Bang Theory, to be removed from video websites while giving no specific reasons.

In July, according to Beijing-based portal Imtw.com, the administration called meetings with seven licensed Internet-television content providers, that provide online content to set-top boxes, to warn of a possible license withdrawal because all have acted against rules in varying degrees. As a result, many US programs are now missing from LeTV box, a namesake Internet TV set of video portal LeTV.com.

Chinese video websites enjoyed a relatively open environment regarding content choice, because it was previously not subject to the administration's direct examination.

The supervision of video websites is believed to involve both the administration and the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, Legend Media's consultant Peng Kan said in an earlier interview with China Daily, but the administration has long wanted to apply its regulation and management policies on film and television to online videos.

The restrictive policies, Peng had then said, could be a signal that the unrestrained days for online content is possibly over.

Wu Chunyong, editor-in-chief with IT portal, told the Southern Metropolis Daily that directly restricting online content is a much more influential matter than restricting the content in set-top boxes. He said he believed the supervisors will be very careful in that.

But if such a policy is established, Wu added, video websites can ways around it. For example, he said, they can jointly produce movies and TV series with Hollywood and license these shows as joint productions.

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