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January 24, 2014

Chinese Video Makers Fear Tighter Controls Over Internet

by Xu Bo

Some Chinese artists who produce videos for the Internet are complaining about new rules that they say will tighten the government's control over political expression.

The producers specialize in short video films - "micro films," as they are known in China - that appear on Chinese versions of YouTube.

Beijing's State Committee on Films and Broadcast Media announced new rules this week that require producers to register their real names and submit their content for review before uploading videos for public consumption.

Officials say the new regulations are intended to prevent violent or pornographic material from being uploaded to the web. However, independent artist Gao Zhen told VOA's Mandarin service he thinks the government's real target is political content.

"I think this is a standard argument justifying the official suppression of all free media," Gao said," said Zhen.

"Some popular films made by independent folks have been suppressed and banned," the producer added, "and even small-scale screenings may be barred. So tightening the regulations covering network dramas and 'micro films' is associated with the control of ideology as a whole. Of course, the authorities do it in the name of banning erotica and violence."
 
Popular online video sites in China, such as Youku Tudou, have not yet commented on the new regulations.

Online dramas and "micro films" - usually videos that are no longer than five minutes - are becoming a growing force in Chinese online entertainment. Many of the short videos take a fast-paced look at social issues, including official corruption.  

Most micro producers are amateurs or students, but professional studios are beginning to experiment with the genre.

Web writer Zan Aizong told VOA that Internet dramas and micro videos are inexpensive and comparatively simple to make.

"Network serials and 'micro films' are low-cost and easy to make. Even a single person can produce one," Zan said. "When a work only several minutes long is uploaded to the Internet, people everywhere can view it and pass it on. Even some official websites show these films, because they need lots of content to attract viewers."

China has been campaigning to suppress Internet "rumors," which many critics see as an attempt to silence dissent.

This report was produced in collaboration with the VOA Mandarin service.