Chinese Government Restricts Foreign Participation in TV and Film Production

March 14, 2005

The People's Daily Web site reports that China's State Administration for Radio, Film, and Television ("SARFT") issued a Notice last week further restricting foreign participation in China's domestic television and film production. The Notice cited the need to improve control over the political and ideological content of television programs produced in cooperation with foreign companies.



As the CECC noted in November 2004, the SARFT issued the Interim Regulations on the Administration of Sino-Foreign Investment and Cooperative Joint Venture Television Program Production Enterprises in October 2004. These regulations confirmed that foreign enterprises may invest in Chinese film and television program production enterprises through joint venture and cooperative venture investment vehicles. The Regulations allowed foreign companies to take non-controlling stakes in Chinese television program producers. Such joint ventures were, however, expressly forbidden from producing programs on "political news."

Now SARFT has issued an interpretive notice for the Regulations that further restricts the ability of foreign media to play a role in China's television industry. According to the Notice Regarding Matters Relating to the Implementation of the 'Interim Regulations on the Administration of Sino-Foreign Investment and Cooperative Joint Venture Television Program Production Enterprises':

In principle, any foreign party that has already received approval and is the process of establishing a joint venture, and any joint venture that has already received SARFT approval, may not apply to establish a second joint venture.

The Notice provides that second applications will be considered in "special circumstances."

Based on the Notice, it appears this restriction was prompted by SARFT's concern regarding the political background of foreign joint venture parties, as well as the government's fear of the influence of foreign ideology and culture:

[W]hile we encourage the working concept and method of maturing the market for foreign program production, we must control the contents of all products of joint ventures in a practical manner, understand the political inclinations and background of foreign joint venture parties, and in this way prevent harmful foreign ideology and culture from entering the realm of our television program production through joint investment and cooperation.

According to the People's Daily Web site article, the Notice "implies that companies that already have joint venture plans such as Sony, Viacom, News Corp, and other foreign invested television and movie conglomerates will not be able to expand their television and film production businesses in the short run."