China Opens Cartoons And Pay TV To Foreign Investors

Beijing | Updated: Aug 31 2004, 05:30am hrs
China has opened its pay television and cartoon sectors to foreign investment, a newspaper said on Monday.

But foreign investors would not be able to work in the country without a Chinese partner, the Beijing Youth Daily said, quoting officials from the state broadcasting regulator.

Analysts said the statement was a rare official endorsement of foreign investment in the media sector, but was not expected to herald a radical shift because policy had been moving in that direction in recent years. Western media firms such as Viacom Inc, News Corp and Time Warner Inc have been courting Chinese officials for years in efforts to gain footholds in the Chinese market, the largest in the world by viewers.

Viacom unveiled with much fanfare in March a joint venture to produce TV shows in Shanghai. The venture, in which Viacom took a minority stake, was said to be the first of its kind. The broadcast and television sectors are being opened to foreign investments. The cartoon and pay TV sectors specifically allow foreign investment, vice minister of the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (SARFT), Hu Zhanfan, was quoted as saying. Officials from SARFT were not immediately available for comment.

The newspaper did not offer details, but analysts said the statement showed a further relaxing of controls on two relatively innocuous segments of the broadcast media sector.

China jealously guards what its 1.3 billion people can see on television and in theatres. Programmes with sexual, religious and political themes are under tight leash.