China Issues New Rules for What People Can and Can’t Say in Online TV, Movies

China Issues New Rules for What People Can and Can’t Say in Online TV, Movies
Photo Credit: Corbis/達志影像

What you need to know

'Programs should promote the revolution, the advanced culture of socialism and patriotism as a core value, as well as praise the motherland and celebrate national heroes.'

China’s broadcasting regulator has released new “guidelines” for online entertainment programming to ensure internet productions are held to the same standards as broadcast entertainment content.

The new regulations aim to curb the spread of “perverted values, entertainment-centric, low quality and tasteless programs which use ‘non-standardized language,’” the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television (SAPPRFT) says.

The rules apply to all online entertainment programming in China, including web films, web series, and all other entertainment productions. The regulations also forbid web streaming of broadcast content that has not passed censorship board reviews.

Edited translation of “Notice On Strengthening the Management of Online Audio and Visual Programs,” issued by SAPPRFT:

On censorship:

  • Television dramas and films that have not passed censorship reviews cannot be streamed online as web series or web films. Television variety shows that do not follow national guidelines cannot be streamed as web variety shows online, through IPTV (web-streaming of television) or online television services. Programs that are not allowed to be broadcast through traditional media are also banned on the internet.
  • It is forbidden to broadcast “uncut versions” or “cut scenes” in any way, shape or form through internet streaming platforms or traditional media.
  • Online entertainment programs should be reviewed and censored according to the relevant regulations before being broadcast on traditional media.

On content:

  • Entertainment reporting should not use scandals and gossip to boost click rates.
  • Online variety shows, web series and films should avoid showing fan culture, foolish games and extravagant banquets.
  • Programs should also avoid commercialism, sex and violence.
  • All programs should avoid crass humor and avoid challenging the moral bottom line.
  • Writing and production of all online entertainment programs should strictly adhere and commit to promulgating core socialist values.
  • Online entertainment programs should aim to foster traditional Chinese culture and emphasize the core values and philosophy of love, the people, integrity, justice, peace and unity; promote the traditional moral values of self-improvement, diligence, helping the poor and at risk, righteousness and filial piety.
  • Online entertainment should oppose money worship, hedonism and extreme individualism.
  • Programs that promote the importance of the family unit are strongly encouraged.
  • Programs should promote the revolution, the advanced culture of socialism and patriotism as a core value, as well as praise the motherland and celebrate national heroes.

On language

  • All online audio and visual entertainment programs should use nationally recognized language and phrases. Language used in such programs should follow the relevant national laws and respect the grand Chinese traditional culture.
  • All language, words, phrases and idioms used should follow the national standard.
  • Homophones and wordplay should not be misused or misinterpreted.
  • Unregulated internet slang and miswritten words should not be used. Scripts should follow national guidelines and provide “correct guidance,” follow proper grammar, avoid crass humor and avoid provocation, filth, cruelty, insults, abuse and other such extreme language.
  • Online entertainment platforms and production personnel, along with actors, hosts, guests and other cast members should act as an example and use nationally recognized language and phrases.
  • Management of language use should be enforced over program names, scripts, subtitles and voice overs, as well as actors, hosts, guests and other cast members to prevent unregulated language from being broadcast online.

Banned and required terminology for journalists reporting on Taiwan, Hong Kong, South China Sea

Just last month Xinhua, China’s main state-run news agency, announced strict rules for how Chinese journalists should refer to dozens of sensitive issues. According to a Chinese-language copy of the notice, there are 45 directives. Thirteen of those cover terminology restrictions for territory and sovereignty issues, including Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau and Xinjiang, as well as the disputed Spratly and Senkaku Islands.

Translation of Xinhua’s “Banned phrases that refer to Chinese territory, sovereignty and Hong Kong and Taiwan”

  • Hong Kong and Macau are special administrative regions, and Taiwan is a province of China. These regions should not be referred to as “countries” in any text, maps or graphs, especially when many other countries and regions are also being mentioned.
  • If the use of names referring to Taiwan’s governmental system and other such institutions cannot be avoided, then quotation marks should be used, such as Taiwan’s “Legislative Yuan,” “Executive Yuan,” “Control Yuan,” “Central Election Commission,” “Directorate General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics, Executive Yuan.” The words “central,” “national,” “Chinese Taipei” should be avoided. If it the use of such words cannot be avoided then quotation marks should be used, such as Taiwan “Central Bank.” Taiwan’s “Premier,” “Legislators,” and other such terms should be put in quotation marks. Taiwan’s “National Tsing Hua University,” “Palace Museum,” and other such names should be put in quotation marks. Under no condition should “President (or Vice-President) of the Republic of China” be used to refer to the leaders of Taiwan, even if it is put in quotation marks.
  • The so-called “law” in Taiwan should be referred to as “relevant regulations of Taiwan.” When referring to legal affairs in Taiwan, do not use international legal terms such as “document validation,” “judicial assistance,” or “extradition.”
  • Do not use the term “兩岸三地”, which is a media term that refers collectively to China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau.
  • Do not use the phrase “tourists from Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan visit China.” Instead, use “tourists from Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan visit the mainland (or 'inland').”
  • “Taiwan” and “the Mainland” are corresponding concepts; “Hong Kong and Macau” and “inland” are corresponding concepts. Do not confuse the two.
  • Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau and China cannot be used together, for example “China-Hong Kong,” “China-Macau,” “China-Taiwan.” Use instead “the inland and Hong Kong,” “Mainland and Taiwan,” or “Beijing-Hong Kong,” “Shanghai-Hong Kong,” “Minnan-Taiwan.”
  • “Taiwan Independence” should be put in quotations.
  • Some Taiwanese non-governmental organizations such as “Taoist Society of the Republic of China,” “Chinese Cross-Strait Marriages Coordination and Promotion Association” whose names include the words “China” or “Chinese” should be put in quotation marks.
  • Do not refer to Taiwan as “Formosa.” If paraphrasing or quoting in a report, put it in quotations.
  • The “Nansha Islands” should not be referred to as the “Spratly Islands.”
  • Diaoyu Island should not be referred to as the “Senkaku Islands.”
  • It is forbidden to refer to Xinjiang as “East Turkestan.”

Editor: Edward White