Without explanation, the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio Film and Television (国家新闻出版广电总局 / 國家新聞出版廣電總局) ordered that four American television shows taken off online-streaming sites such as iQiyi, Youku Tudou, and Sohu. The Big Bang Theory, The Good Wife, NCIS, and The Practice, all officially licensed and popular in China, were immediately taken down.
The move follows last month’s announcement from SAPPRFT (original text in Chinese here) that companies that stream content online must subject their content to review by a government-approved censor. Previously, the government’s hands-off approach and allowed companies to self-censor. Many people were surprised when the corruption-themed House of Cards was allowed to freely stream.
Although it was not specifically directed at foreign television programs, the purpose was quickly understood. Streaming video companies slowed their licensing of foreign programs. 95.2% of 120,000 surveyed on Sina Weibo opposed the policy. Netizens took to the message boards with pitchforks, mostly complaining about the quality and content of domestic programming and Korean dramas. From Sina Weibo and NetEase, translated by China Smack:
“Do you support the ban of American TV shows? I strongly oppose! Ban your ass!!!!…If you do want to ban then ban those retarded Korean dramas where you can’t tell the men apart from the women and where after so many years it is ridiculously still the same basic plots!”
“If domestic movies and television were interesting, who would choose to watch subtitled or dubbed American TV shows?”
“Explicit, obscene? Then let us be immersed in the happy society of ridiculous Sino-Japanese War TV dramas, mother-in-law and daughter-in-law plots, Pleasant Goat waging war on Big Big Wolf and Xinwen Lianbo!”
“Even if all foreign shows are taken down, I still won’t watch [domestic] brainwashing TV shows and garbage TV shows!”
Curiously, House of Cards, The Walking Dead, Nikita, and Masters of Sex, also all popular in China and arguably containing more “dangerous” content were not among the shows ordered taken down. Of course, they may be removed in the future, and the four shows already moved may return after censorship review.
In the meantime, Chinese audiences can watch reruns of a Chinese version of The Big Bang Theory and take solace in the fact that SAPPRFT also decreed that television stations can’t all show the same television program at the same time.
Image: Andrew Shiue