China's State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (SARFT) and Ministry of Information Industry (MII) have co-published the new Regulations for Online Audio and Video Services, which will take effect from January 31, 2008. The regulations cover the production, editing, and aggregation of audio and video content and provision to the public through both Internet and mobile networks.
The new regulation defines SARFT as the authority to administer, monitor, and regulate the industry's development, while the MII, with authority over the internet and mobile industry, will take related monitoring responsibilities and provide a set of service guidelines.
All online audio and video service providers will be required to apply for an "Online Audio-Visual Broadcasting License", key qualifications for which include: being majority state-owned and possessing a comprehensive program censoring system, legal program resources, legal funding sources, and "standardized technology".
Companies involved in news broadcasting, or which provide service under the name of a radio station or TV station, must also obtain a Radio and TV Broadcasting License or a internet news information service license. Broadcasting of content such as talk shows, interviews, or independently-produced online dramas or films must also obtain a Radio and TV Broadcasting Program Production License.
Application for all licenses can be made through local broadcasting authorities, but final approval from SARFT will be required for issuance of licenses. After obtaining an "Online Audio-Visual Broadcasting License", the company must then apply for an Internet access license from the MII (Editor's note: literally, a "Telecom Service Provider's License" - a broad enough term to include what is likely an Internet Content Provider's License for online video providers and a Wireless Value-Added Service Provider's License for mobile video providers).
State-owned strategic investors are encouraged to invest in online audio and video companies, while online audio and video providers are encouraged to develop services based on leading edge Internet and mobile internet technologies, and to broadcast public-service content. TV and film production companies are encouraged to produce content suitable for online broadcasting.
All content broadcast online must be kept available for at least 60 days. The following types of content are forbidden: that which damages China's unity and sovereignty; harms ethnic solidarity; promotes superstition; portrays violence, pornography, gambling, or terrorism; violates privacy; damages China's culture or traditions; or violates existing laws of China.
Unlicensed companies are not allowed to provide audio and video upload services for individuals, and even licensed companies may not allow individuals to upload news content. When providing upload services of audio and video content, the service provider should remind users not to upload content violating this regulation. No company or individual is allowed to re-broadcast, link, or aggregate content from illegal TV channels or illegal online audio and video sites.
Companies are required to delete any illegal content as soon as it is found, keep a record thereof, and report the details to the relevant authorities. Major shareholders and the online audio and video providers are to be held accountable for content broadcast and uploaded on their sites.
Any of the following violations of the regulations may result in a warning from the broadcasting authorities and a penalty of up to RMB 30,000:
- Provision of online audio and video services under any of the names traditionally reserved for radio and TV broadcasting stations (Editor's note: e.g. "XX TV Station" or "XX Radio Station") without approval.
- Changes to registered capital, shareholders, share holding structure, IPO or major assets without approval.
- Failure to maintain a comprehensive program monitoring system, ensure adequate copyright protection measures, or properly manage (i.e. remind users not to upload, delete, report, and prevent spread of) forbidden content.
- Failure to conspicuously display license number, logo, and company name.
- Failure to keep broadcasting records and fulfill responsibility to assist investigations by the authorities.
- Provision of fee collection, signal transmission, server hosting or other related services to unlicensed companies.
- Provision of users information to a third party without user's agreement.
- Violation of any part of the regulations three times within the same year.
- Obtaining the Online Audio-Visual Broadcasting License using fake documents.
Companies which the broadcasting authority deems to be in serious violation of these regulations will have their internet access shut down and Internet access license cancelled by the telecommunications authority.
Companies in severe violation of the regulations will be subject to the above-mentioned penalty, and their major investors and business operators will be forbidden from any further investment or involvement in the online audio and video broadcasting sector for a period of 5 years.
Provision of online audio and video services via local area networks (LAN) or virtual private networks (VPN) requires approval first from the MII and then from SARFT.