China Puts Choke Hold on Foreign Online Media
BEIJING – China’s Ministry of Industry and Technology has written new rules that could in effect ban all foreign-invested companies from publishing online in China.
The new rules, slated to go into effect on March 10, could shut down China as a market for foreign news outlets, publishers, gaming companies, information providers, and entertainment companies, analysts say.
The rules, issued in conjunction with the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television (SARFT), set strict new guidelines for what can be published online, and how the publishers should conduct business in China.
“Sino-foreign joint ventures, Sino-foreign cooperative ventures, and foreign business units shall not engage in online publishing services,” the rules state. Any publisher of online content, including “texts, pictures, maps, games, animations, audios, and videos,” will also be required to store their “necessary technical equipment, related servers, and storage devices” in China, the rules say.
Foreign companies salivate over China’s 700 million-strong online population. Several foreign media companies, including Thomson Reuters, Dow Jones, Bloomberg, the Financial Times, and the New York Times have invested millions in building China-based news organizations for a Chinese audience. Many of the same media outlets have been working to get government blocks on their content lifted.
Gaming companies including Sony PlayStation and Microsoft Xbox have have had some success getting their content into China and social media giants like Facebook are champing at the bit to get in.
The new rules, however, mandate that, aside from government-approved projects, only 100 percent Chinese companies will produce any content that goes online, and then only after approval from Chinese authorities and the acquisition of an online publishing license.
Analysts believe the new rules will be tough to enforce.
Ying Chan, the director of the journalism program at the University of Hong Kong, told Quartz that “using rules of the print age to govern the internet does not work. How do you license media in an age when everyone could become a writer and publisher? With these set of regulations, the government is fighting both market forces and technology.”
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