China will bar new foreign television channels and step up censorship of imported programming, adding to a sweeping effort to tighten the government's control over popular culture.
In an effort to "safeguard national cultural safety," the government also will tighten controls over the 31 foreign television satellite broadcasters that hold licenses to operate in China, the the Culture Ministry said on its Web site in a statement dated Wednesday.
The government also will ban new licenses for companies to import newspapers and magazines, electronic publications, audiovisual products and children's cartoons, the ministry said.
It said new limits will be imposed on the number of foreign copyrighted products that Chinese companies are allowed to publish.
The measures are a dramatic step back from more liberal rules unveiled late last year to open China's media market.
The announcement adds to a mounting campaign over the past two years to tighten control over popular culture and keep out material that communist leaders worry is spreading politically and socially dangerous influences.
The latest steps are meant to "strengthen management of imported cultural products, improve intellectual property protections and safeguard national cultural safety," the Culture Ministry said.
"No more licenses for foreign satellite channels will be issued," it said. It said regulators will "conscientiously strengthen management of foreign satellite channels that already have licenses."
China will ban new licenses to
import newspapers and magazines
The statement didn't give any details of what new content guidelines might be applied to foreign broadcasters.
They are likely to be a major disappointment for broadcasters that hope for access to China, a country with 400 million television sets.
Chinese radio and television stations are eager for access to foreign investment and programming as many lose government subsidies and have to compete in a crowded, fast-changing market.
Some foreign companies such as News Corp.'s Hong Kong-based Star Group and others have been granted rights to broadcast over cable systems in small areas of the mainland. Viacom Inc.'s Nickelodeon and others have formed joint ventures with Chinese partners, while some sell blocks of programming.
But communist leaders are reluctant to give Chinese broadcasters free rein to form foreign ties, concerned it might erode official controls over what censors refer to as "political standards" of broadcasts.
Regulators frequently cite foreign culture as a source of unwholesome influences in Chinese broadcasting.
Last year, the government prohibited the use of English words on television and foreign programs that promote "Western ideology and politics." It also banned programs about crime or violence in prime time in order to promote a "healthy environment" for children.
Last month, the government announced a ban on Chinese television and radio stations forming partnerships with foreign companies or leasing channels to foreign companies.
The Culture Ministry announcement also said the government will launch a new crackdown on illegal satellite dishes.
Most private ownership of satellite receivers is banned in China, but millions of households have them illegally despite repeated crackdowns.
The ministry said authorities will try to stamp out the unlicensed broadcasting of foreign programming over telecommunications networks.