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China To Crackdown On Podcasting, Web Video

Just in time for the Beijing Olympics

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The Chinese government says it is cracking down on Internet-based audio-visual programming like podcast and video-sharing sites to ensure content doesn’t pollute the spiritual and cultural ideals of the country. And yeah, that includes pirates, too. That the expanded measures against user-generated media come just months before the Beijing Olympics is just a coincidence.

Right?

China To Crackdown On Podcasting, Web Video

Reading a Google-translated version of the Chinese government’s defense of Web audio and video transmission regulation is like reading a declaration from Big Brother himself. It also makes me think we sometimes forget how groovy liberty really is, and how we need to remind our elected representatives of that, too.

China issued a set of rules governing A/V content traversing behind the Great Firewall, banning and instituting fines for the dissemination of pornography, violent or "vulgar" content, and pirated material. Such material, argue Chinese officials, are "seriously polluting the network environment," and are especially a threat to children. Audio and video on the Internet will be treated much like television and radio broadcasts.

No definition of "vulgar" is really given, and it’s interesting to see Chinese officials using the "it’s for the kids" excuse, much like some of our own politicians. The Chinese government first says the crackdown on undesirable material was at the behest of "the broad masses of the people," who urged the government to do something about all that access to unapproved media.

I assume that by "broad masses" they mean a raucous but small group of protestors, much like a certain one Stateside that likes to heckle the FCC. Their 3 complaints, obviously, constitute sufficient national outrage.

But the part that will really make your civil libertarian sinuses flare up is the part where the Chinese government says that strengthened supervision will help promote "the people’s spiritual and cultural needs."

Take a moment to send thanks to Thomas Jefferson, who was pretty darn sure the people could look after their own spiritual and cultural needs.

Right after the spiritual and cultural provisions, authorities remind readers of the purpose of Chinese media to begin with: "the dissemination of advanced socialist culture and…cultural development with Chinese characteristics as a network to promote cultural construction of the new engine…."

But then there’s something else really interesting in the strange translation, which brings the United States into it:

"Internet service units should…give top priority to social benefits, and building a socialist core value system…in line with the socialist moral standards…[to] meet the people’s knowledge, and music, and the wishes of the United States, give full play to culture [that] nourishes the soul…."

It’s very (as you can see) unclear what is meant by that. Did they mean the wishes of the US government, or, since this also involves piracy, US-based organizations like the MPAA and RIAA? 

It’s interesting that the US suddenly has such an impact on Chinese policy; they’ve certainly never adopted that whole freedom of speech and press idea, which numerous US-based organizations have been "wishing" they’d do for quite some time. 

Or maybe it has to do with something else. The Olympics are coming up, which means a lot of US dollars, weak as they are these days, especially from large media companies. China has the second largest Internet population in the world at 210 million (that’s just 16% market penetration, by the way) compared to the 547 million Chinese using mobile phones (which accounts for just 41% market penetration).

That means huge potential for people to be blogging, texting, recording and disseminating Olympic events. That means huge potential for broadcasters to lose control of their media coverage. 

That copyright is included in this audio-video crackdown as a spiritual and cultural threat just in advance of the 2008 Olympics in Beijing (boy do the networks hate unrestrained blogging and podcasting) might be our biggest clue as to whose United States wishes those are.   
 
 

China To Crackdown On Podcasting, Web Video
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