Co-written by Agnes Wong, Consultant, Johnson Stokes & Master
Originally published in May 2002
The Provisional Measures for the Administration of the Examination and Approval of the Landing of Foreign Satellite Television Channel (the "Measures") were promulgated by the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television ("SARFT") and took effect from 1st February, 2002. The Measures aim at tightening control over foreign satellite television by regulating the approval system of all satellite broadcasting into the PRC.
Foreign satellite television channels may, with approval from the SARFT, broadcast to three star hotels (or above) and guesthouses catering for foreign guests and buildings exclusively for office and residential use by expatriates and other designated places.
Pursuant to Article 5 of the Measures, the criteria for applying for the landing right are:
(a) The content of the programmes must not violate Chinese laws, regulations or similar rules;
(b) The channel is among the top three television media in its home country (or region) in terms of overall ranking and audience rating;
(c) The broadcaster is capable of providing "reciprocal" co-operation to China and promises to land and actively assists in landing Chinese radio and television programmes abroad;
(d) The broadcaster has friendly relations with China and must actively facilitate friendly exchanges and co-operation between Chinese and foreign radio and television broadcasters; and
(e) The broadcaster agrees to centralise the transmission of its programmes via an organisation designated by the SARFT and undertakes not to land such programmes in China by any other means.
These requirements are somewhat subjective and therefore difficult to apply clearly, as with other industries, for example telecoms, China wishes to encourage major players from abroad at the expense of second line players. The requirement for reciprocity is particularly troublesome. The requirement implies that foreign broadcasters must offer reciprocal arrangements to broadcast programmes from the state-owned China Central Television on their own channels before they can obtain landing rights in China. To some foreign broadcasters, this may not be worth the effort unless they are given wide coverage in China in return (as opposed to being restricted for hotels in minor cities for example).
To apply for landing right, a foreign broadcaster must file through an exclusive agent designated by the SARFT who shall represent them in all matters relating to broadcasts to China. When filing the application, the foreign broadcaster must submit a satellite television channel memorandum, evidence of its capabilities as required by Article 5, other explanatory information and information about its reception devices (e.g. decoders). Further materials or information should be provided within 2 weeks of notification from the SARFT. Otherwise, the application is considered to be voluntarily withdrawn.
Applications can only be filed between July and September of each year as the SARFT shall only process applications once a year. After approval is granted, the foreign broadcaster must conclude a contract with the exclusive agent within 90 days. Otherwise, the foreign broadcaster shall be deemed to have given up its landing right.
If the licensed foreign broadcaster broadcasts prohibited content or broadcasts in a manner outside the scope of its Licence then the unauthorised broadcasts will be ordered to stop. If such licensed broadcaster contravenes the Measures 3 times in 1 year, then its licence will be forfeited and that broadcaster cannot re-apply for landing right in the next 3 years.
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