China’s top media regulator will expand pre-broadcast censorship to cover television documentaries, in an apparent boost to an already formidable control apparatus, a newspaper said on Friday.
China’s State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (SARFT) told TV stations and producers that all documentaries would have to be approved in advance of being shown, the Beijing Morning Post reported.
The notice would bring censorship of TV documentaries into line with requirements on non-fiction films, it said.
A notice posted on SARFT’s website on Monday said that TV production companies including joint Chinese-foreign co-productions should report documentary topics in advance.
The notice did not detail topics which would be censored, but said the move would “promote the healthy development of television documentaries”.
Previous censorship guidelines released by SARFT have outlawed films which “distort” China’s history, or contain “murder, violence, horror, evil spirits and devils and excessively terrifying scenes”.
A range of political topics are also blocked by censors, from allegations of high-level corruption to calls for multiparty democracy and works challenging state-approved narratives of historical events.
China is home to a vibrant community of independent documentary makers who bypass officialdom and screen their work at independent film festivals, in bars and at universities, post them online or distribute them on copied DVDs.