Today in censorship news: Domestic web dramas, which previously enjoyed relatively loose regulations, now require a license from the National Radio and Television Administration (NRTA) to air on streaming platforms.
The said ‘Web Series Distribution License’ will appear in the prelude of all approved programs for five seconds henceforth.
The new license for online TV shows and movies appears at the start of each video. Image via Weibo
The license bears striking similarities to the longbiao or ‘dragon mark’ (龙标) — both in design and essence — found in NRTA-censored films in China (see below).
Previously, web series only needed to be internally approved and reviewed by streaming platforms. However, several videos involving taboo subjects (such as same-sex affection) eventually caught the government’s attention. They led to the state’s requirement in 2019 that web dramas must be “put on record” at NRTA before distribution. The new regulations indicate the watchdog’s desire to further tighten oversight on web dramas.
Li Jingsheng, vice president of the China Federation of Radio and Television Associations, has justified the watchdog’s actions by describing them as a means to “make the internet better serve its role as a promoter of culture.”
Predictably, Chinese netizens have chimed in online with their thoughts on the new regulations.
“With the new rule, parents can stop worrying that their kids will watch inappropriate shows online,” reads the most upvoted comment about the regulation on the Chinese microblogging platform Weibo.
“I don’t understand why they are restricting art,” reads a less optimistic note. “It is ok to have a bottom line, but you shouldn’t have restrictions everywhere.”
Some netizens are calling for less stringent measures, such as using a rating system to identify ‘adult content.’
“Please use a rating system,” pleaded a Weibo user. “Creativity should be free and wild and not restricted.”
In March, authorities announced the 2022 Clear and Bright Campaign to regulate the livestreaming industry. The new license system for online shows and movies marks another attempt by the regulator to ‘clean up’ cyberspace in the country.
This article was updated at 6:02 PM to clarify that the new regulations regarding web dramas are not a part of China’s Clear and Bright Campaign. This article has also been slightly altered to explain that same-sex affection in online videos led to the state’s requirement in 2019 that web dramas must be “put on record” at NRTA before distribution.
Cover image: screengrab via YouTube
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