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China Poised to Expand Censorship Crackdown

After weeks of increased regulation aimed at foreign television shows streaming online, sources say Chinese regulators soon will be targeting Hollywood titles.

China will dramatically step up its crackdown on web content to include censorship of feature films streamed online in a raft of tough new rules that until now mostly had been aimed at overseas TV dramas.


Until late last year, online video sites largely were self-censoring, but the government is cracking down hard on pornography, violence or anything that might challenge the authority of the ruling Communist Party, and Hollywood movies are the next target of the campaign.

“We are at an early stage in this process,” said an industry source at the Berlin International Film Festival. “The government is planning to extend the censorship rules to include movies next, after imposing restrictions on TV dramas.”

China is the world’s second-biggest film market, and Hollywood studios have started reaping profits from selling content to sites such as Youku Tudou, Baidu’s iQIYI, and Tencent. But negotiating its regulatory environment can be tricky, and censorship of movies online would make the market more challenging.

“It probably wouldn’t be a huge problem if some scenes of sex or violence were cut,” said one leading U.S. sales agent, “but if scenes started to be rearranged, or there were other wholesale changes, watch out.”

There are fears that increased censorship also could encourage more piracy, and could give domestic movies, which have to go through the censorship process very early on, an advantage.

“The government wants to make sure it has oversight over all content that is shown online, and it was always obvious that they would extend the crackdown on TV dramas to features,” said the source.