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China limits Internet video to state-controlled companies

HONG KONG (AP) – China has decided to restrict the broadcasting of Internet videos – including those posted on video-sharing Web sites – to sites run by state-controlled companies and require providers to report questionable content to the government.

It wasn’t immediately clear how the new rules would affect YouTube and other providers of Internet video that host Web sites available in China but are based in other countries.

The new regulations, which take effect Jan. 31, were approved by both the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television and the Ministry of Information Industry and were described on their Web sites Thursday.

Under the new policy, Web sites that provide video programming or allow users to upload video must obtain government permits and applicants must be either state-owned or state-controlled companies.

The majority of Internet video providers in China are private, according to an explanation of the regulations posted on Chinafilm.com, which is run by the state-run China Film Group.

The policy will ban providers from broadcasting video that involves national secrets, hurts the reputation of China, disrupts social stability or promotes pornography. Providers will be required to delete and report such content.

”Those who provide Internet video services should insist on serving the people, serve socialism … and abide by the moral code of socialism,” the rules say.

The permits are subject to renewal every three years and operators who commit ”major” violations may be banned from providing online video programming for five years.

The status of sites such as YouTube, a popular video-sharing site, remains in question. San Bruno, Calif.-based YouTube is available in China and runs a Chinese-language Web site, but it wasn’t immediately clear if any of its computer servers are located in China.

YouTube LLC, a subsidiary of Google Inc., didn’t immediately respond to an e-mail from The Associated Press seeking comment.

Tudou.com, which claims to be China’s largest video sharing Web site, also didn’t immediately respond to an e-mail requesting comment.

The effect of Chinese laws on American Internet companies operating in the country recently came under the spotlight as two Chinese journalists were jailed after Yahoo Inc. provided Chinese authorities with information about their online activities. Both journalists are serving 10-year prison sentences.

In November, Yahoo settled a lawsuit, agreeing to pay the attorneys’ fees of the journalists. Yahoo also said it would ”provide financial, humanitarian and legal support to these families.” No other details of the settlement were disclosed.

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