The South China Morning Post reports that Chinese authorities have ordered video streaming websites to stop showing four popular American TV shows, including The Big Bang Theory and The Good Wife, representatives from two sites said on April 27.
The move suggests government attention is intensifying on the online content-streaming industry, which is freer than state television and China’s cinemas to show foreign productions and other content and has stretched the boundaries of what can be seen in the country.
A spokeswoman for a leading online video site, Youku, said on Saturday it received an order from the media regulator to stop streaming the sitcom The Big Bang Theory, political and legal drama The Good Wife, crime drama NCIS and legal drama The Practice.
Of the shows listed, Youku only streams The Good Wife.
The order came from the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television, which did not provide an explanation for the ban, said the Youku spokeswoman.
A senior manager with another content-streaming website, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said his company received an order last week to “clean their website”. The order, identical to the one sent to Youku and other companies, also called for the immediate removal of a Chinese sitcom produced by Sohu, one of the mainland’s largest internet firms.
Calls to the regulator rang unanswered on April 27, and Sohu did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Streaming sites regularly receive orders to remove Chinese or foreign TV programmes and movies due to violence, graphic sex or copyright infringement.
China’s privately-owned video streaming sites began as YouTube-like platforms that relied on user-generated content. But the sites soon expanded to show legally licensed domestic and international TV series and films.
Increasingly, mainland sites are producing their own programmes and, in some cases, co-producing feature-length films.
Li Xiang, a real estate agent in Beijing and a big fan of American TV dramas, said he was angered by the order.
“If they kill all the fun we have, we will have lots of time to watch [politically] sensitive content,” Li said.
Yang Jiajia, also a capital resident, said the ban would have some unintended consequences.
“[The removal order] will only encourage internet users to download the programmes from piracy websites,” he said.