Media watchdog tightens regulations on online broadcasts

Updated 2016-12-20 08:59:27 Global Times

The Chinese media watchdog has tightened the online circulation of broadcasts and videos and barred individuals from producing and distributing politics-related news programs online, according to a recently released regulation.

Netizens need to obtain relevant licenses for making broadcasts and circulating videos, movies and TV dramas on social media platforms including Sina Weibo and WeChat, according to a circular issued by the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television on Friday.

"The license would help regulate online circulation of information as many videos and online broadcasts are distributed for profit and contain illegal content or breach the Copyright Law," said Zhu Wei, deputy director of the Research Center of Law of Communication at the Beijing-based China University of Political Science and Law.

On the other hand, the licensing requirement amounts to stricter control over online content, which would damage the freedom of speech, although whether the freedom of speech or the spread of sensitive information is more important remains debatable in China, Zhu told the Global Times.

However, "regulation of online content cannot simply rely on the licenses and also needs supervision by social media platforms themselves which have technique and databases to oversee the content," said Xie Yongjiang, deputy director of the Institute of Internet Governance and Law at the Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications.

The licensing mechanism cannot ensure that all forms of content of broadcasts and videos are running in accordance with the regulation, Xie noted.

He explained that many problems, such as pornographic content, are hidden in the broadcasts and videos, which are difficult to identify.

The administration also said the video or broadcast news programs relating to politics produced by netizens are not allowed to be circulated on social media platforms.

In a draft regulation on online news issued by the State Internet Information Office in January, only media organizations are entitled to spread political news online, including reports, comments on politics, economics, military and diplomacy.

"China is trying to regulate new media in the same ways as traditional media, in which politics-related topics have long been carefully monitored," said Xie.

The Chinese government had taken various measures for online supervision, including online live streaming services to pornographic sites.

Thousands of illegal accounts have been shut down by Beijing-based live streaming websites since Cyberspace Administration of China in November publicized a regulation on online live streaming services, ordering service providers and content distributors to obtain qualifications.

Videos by Jiang Yilei - an online celebrity known as Papi Jiang, who has over 10 million social media followers - were once ordered to be removed and modified before they may be reposted online in April. More than 2,500 websites were shut down in November in a crackdown on pornography and illegal publications, said the National Office against Pornography and Illegal Publications.

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