China’s SARFT sets tough Internet TV rules

China’s SARFT media regulator has issued new rules for suppliers and users of Internet-based TV transmission. The new regulation – Operation and Management Requirements for Licensed Internet Television Operators – requires that Internet TV set-top boxes be operated only in cities selected for China’s network convergence trials.

The document requires that Internet TV platform operators, such as those operating in Shanghai-based BesTV and Wasu Digital in Hangzhou, must submit to SARFT the types, model numbers and suppliers of the set-top boxes they choose to partner with in their licence applications. SARFT will then issue through uniform distribution in batch authorisations, with a unique serial number for each qualified Internet TV terminal product.

The rules require that “Internet television content service platforms may only connect to Internet television integrated platforms established with approval from SARFT,” and “Content providers with television broadcast rights may deliver film and television VOD services through partnerships with Internet TV broadcast and control platform operators” but “may not link such services to their [i.e. the content provider’s] websites.”

Many observers see the new rules as helping promote – not restrict – the deployment of set-top boxes, provided the distribution comes from one of the seven SARFT approved partner/suppliers.

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