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China clamps down on foreign telly on its channels

Just in case The Big Bang Theory sparks revolution

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First it blocked the web, now it's going after TV. China has introduced tough new restrictions on channels broadcasting foreign-made telly and warned regulators to step up fines for any companies breaking the rules.

The government’s State Administration of Radio, Film and Television made the announcement on Monday, explaining that no more than a quarter of a TV station’s daily output should be non-Chinese and that no foreign-made programmes could be broadcast during the primetime hours of 7pm-10pm.

Other limitations include no more than 50 episodes of one particular foreign TV drama can be broadcast and any trailer introducing a foreign TV show must be limited to three minutes. There are also restrictions on the amount of content coming from one particular country.

There was good news for HD fans in the country, however, with the regulations stating that high definition version of foreign TV programmes should be prioritised.

"Regulatory bodies around the country must increase their supervision over foreign television shows broadcast on television stations at all levels, and increase fines levied for those who break the rules," the notice warned, according to Reuters.

The clampdown can be seen as the Asian nation's latest attempt to limit the free flow of information and ideas across its borders and reassert homegrown – and strictly vetted – cultural output.

President Hu Jintao has kept an eagle eye on the creeping insurgence of western culture, presumably because he’s worried that the people will rise up if inspired by the messages of liberty and democracy which suffuse The Big Bang Theory or Desperate Housewives.

Such shows have been blocked online in China for some time now, although eager foreign TV fans in the country can still get their fix from pirated DVDs.

China has of course done pretty well so far in limiting the content its citizens are allowed to access - its Great Firewall of China web filtering project is so successful that regimes including Iran are building their own versions. ®

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