Peking censors dished by satellite TV

IT'S Saturday evening and one of the world's fastest-growing television audiences must decide what to watch. Highlights on Peking's state-owned channels last weekend included a traditional Peking opera, Luo Cheng Dies in an Ambush, and a feature film, Good Morning, Peking, in which, according to the blurb, a bus conductor, 'unsatisfied with her poverty and demeaning position, is determined to better herself . . . in this film describing ordinary urban youth'.

But while Chinese urban youth was bettering itself, over on the satellite channels there was more enticing fare: an MTV 'Rockumentary' on David Bowie, international sport, the BBC news, and Mandarin-language dramas. Those close enough to Hong Kong to pick up the colony's channels could have tuned in to Gone with the Wind or an action-packed Cantonese feature film.

In the cut-and-thrust world of aggressive programming, China's state-owned television channels have yet to join battle. But there are other weapons in any ratings war. The government has announced new regulations banning people or 'work units' - which include all state-related businesses, offices and housing blocks - from installing or using satellite dishes. It was the latest attempt to clamp down on a flow of information and entertainment that, because of advances in technology and falling prices, the government no longer controls.

According to official figures, there are 40,000 satellite dishes in China, despite restrictions issued in 1991. This is certainly a huge underestimate and, in any case, one satellite dish is usually connected by cable to several homes.

Satellite dishes cost about 4,000 yuan (pounds 350), well within the budget of many families. At one Peking store, the assistant said he sold about 10 a month, mostly to individuals.

Under regulations, licences are needed for production, import, sales, installation and use of dishes. Individuals and work units are banned from using dishes unless they cannot receive normal television signals or need satellite programmes for work. Violations will be punished by fines of up to 5,000 yuan for individuals and 50,000 yuan for work units. Those who have dishes must get a licence within six months.

In an environment where a film such as Farewell My Concubine has recently had a difficult time getting past the censors, the free flow of news and culture via satellite television appears increasingly threatening to the authorities. The new regulations were to 'promote building socialist spiritual enlightenment', the order said.

Cracking down on the industry will not be easy, because so many different organisations are profiting from it. Former defence electronics factories have converted production lines to manufacture civilian satellite dishes; import companies are bringing in foreign models; state-owned shops are selling the dishes.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: KS2 Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: My client is a two form entry primary schoo...

Tradewind Recruitment: English Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: My client is an excellent, large partially ...

Tradewind Recruitment: Science Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: I am currently working in partnersh...

Tradewind Recruitment: Year 3 Primary Teacher

£100 - £150 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Year 3 Teacher Birmingham Jan 2015...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee