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China government relaxes censorship process

China government relaxes censorship process

By Kevin Ma

Wed, 17 July 2013, 14:40 PM (HKT)

Industry News

In a memorandum dated 11 July, which was only released by the central government today, the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television (SAPPRFT) 國家新聞出版廣電總局 announced that it will drop twenty of its current responsibilities.

The item getting the most attention in the Chinese media and from film-makers on social media is the official cancellation of "censorship for general topic scripts" (取消一般題材電影劇本審查), although there has been confusion over the terminology.

On his microblog, JIA Zhangke 賈樟柯 asked, "Then what is a 'non-general' topic?" LU Chuan 陸川 called the move a "good thing", but asked that 'general' and 'non-general' be clearly defined. GAO Qunshu 高群書 also praised the move.

This afternoon, Beijing News quoted a "source close to SARFT" that defined "general topics films" as meaning any work that does not discuss "religion, ethnic groups, foreign affairs and other special topics".

Until now, every feature film made in China (including co-productions) is required by law to submit a full script before being approved to shoot. Productions will now only have to submit synopses, or treatments, for production approval.

This has, however, already been an informal practice for local films for at least the past three years. (Government officials have been hard-tasked as the official number of domestic films entering production has grown ten-fold in the past decade.)

For local films, the move is arguably simply making a current practice official. If it is applied to co-productions also, it will represent a major shift that will significantly reduce bureaucracy. However such films may fall under "general topics".

There has, however, been explicit red-tape cutting for co-productions through a relaxation in the approval processes for the import of film-making equipment and film stock. Also, the duplication of foreign film prints will not need prior approval.

There will also be a decentralisation of responsibilities.

Film festivals that have a single-nation focus can now be approved by the local branches of the censorship body and not through its central Beijing branch. Similarly, approval for the manufacture of DVDs can be made at regional branches.

The memo also mentions the strengthening of other duties, including the spreading Chinese mass media products to the international stage as well as the supervision and regulation of digital/web media including online VoD sites.

Update: A government official has since confirmed to that "script approval has not been in effect for 3-4 years now; we've only been looking at synopses, but this change had not been officially announced."

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