China proposes regulation curtailing activity of privately funded media outlets News
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China proposes regulation curtailing activity of privately funded media outlets

China’s Ministry of Commerce and the National Development and Reform Commission have introduced a proposed regulation seeking to restrict the activities that privately funded media sources can undertake.

The regulation—the 2021 version of the “Negative List of Market Access”—covers activities ranging from agriculture and aviation to education, media, and the financial industry. The regulation classifies activities as prohibited or permitted. The former, where market entities are denied entry and administrative approvals, consists of six items, while the latter, where market entities are allowed to enter with state approval and in compliance with the conditions prescribed by the government, consists of 111 items.

Among the six prohibited items is “news and media related activities in violation of regulations.” The accompanying description provides several such regulations on non-public capital, referring to media outlets not directly financed by the Communist Party of China. The description prohibits such outlets from “gathering, editing, and broadcasting” news, including replicating “news released by foreign entities.” Private investment is prohibited in the establishment and operation of news organizations across print, radio, television, and the internet. Significantly, the description states:

Non-public capital must not engage in politics, economy, military, or diplomacy [and] live broadcast of major social, cultural, technological, health, education, sports and other activities and events related to political direction, public opinion and value orientation.

Regarding “permitted activities,” non-public capital is allowed in specific news media not exceeding a specified shareholding limit (item 57). The establishment of publishing units or local agencies and publication of school textbooks, newspapers, periodicals, continuous electronic publications and religious articles are subject to approval by government agencies (item 94).

The 2021 World Press Freedom Index ranked China 177 out of 180 countries. It noted the Communist Party of China “used” the COVID-19 pandemic to impose ever-tightening control on news and information, including privately-owned media.

Having obtained the approval of the Party Central Committee and the State Council, the commission will now solicit public opinion on the regulation.