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I. Recent development of Network Convergence
With the network convergence, users can have access to information through any one of the terminals including television, mobile phones and computers, which formerly could only be done through certain terminals. That is, not only will television services be compatible with computer services and computer services will cover television services, but also the telecommunication network, cable network and internet will be compatible with one another. It should be noted, however, that the network convergence mainly refers to the business application integration rather than the physical unity of the three networks.
In recent years, the business operations based on network convergence in China can be divided into three types:
1) Cooperation based on the television terminal, mainly the cooperation based on IPTV
2) Cooperation based on the computer terminal: at present, many media groups have launched their own websites and major television and radio stations have been offering online viewing or listening services.
3) Cooperation based on the mobile terminal: mainly the cooperation based on mobile television.
Against this background, this paper mainly discusses the administrative regulation of the relevant subjects that broadcast the information-network-disseminated audio-visual programs on television and computer terminals. The examination and approval for information-network-disseminated audio-visual content has been explained in other articles in detail.
II. Administrative Regulation of the Broadcast of the Information-network-disseminated Audio-visual Programs on Television Terminals
As mentioned above, under the background of network convergence, the cooperation based on television is mainly IPTV. Most of the IPTV policies were published by the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television (formerly known as the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television, hereinafter referred to as the “SARFT”), mainly including “Regulations of Audio-visual Programs Transmission through Information Network such as the Internet” (No. 39) issued on July 6, 2004, “Notice on Issues related to the Construction of the IPTV Integrated Control Platform in the Network Convergence Pilot Areas” (No. 344) issued on July 12, 2010, “Notice on Issues related to the Construction of the IPTV Integrated Broadcast Control Platform” (No. 43) issued on July 2012, and “Notice of Issues related to the Construction and Management of the IPTV Integrated Broadcast Control Platform in the Current Stage” (No. 97) published in 2015.
Based on No.39, No.344, No.43 and No.97 documents, the IPTV regulation mainly focuses on IPTV integrated broadcast control platform, IPTV content service platform and IPTV transmission network.
The IPTV integrated broadcast control platform refers to the broadcast control system that manages IPTV programs from the broadcast terminal to the client, including the unified integration and broadcast control of the program content, electronic program guide (EPG), client, billing, copyright and other management subsystems. The IPTV integrated broadcast control platform implements a two-level framework: the IPTV integrated broadcast control general platform set up by CCTV and the IPTV integrated broadcast control sub-platforms jointly set up by CCTV and local television stations. The licence of the IPTV integrated broadcast control general platform can be applied for by CCTV and licence of the IPTV broadcast and control sub-platforms can be applied for by the local television stations.
The IPTV content service platform corresponds to the IPTV integrated broadcast control platform. It is divided into the national and regional IPTV content platforms. The licence of the national IPTV content service platform can be applied for by CCTV and provincial and municipal radio and television broadcast agencies with national program resources. The licence of the regional IPTV content service platform can be applied for by radio and television broadcast agencies with regional programme resources.
The licence of the IPTV transmission service can be applied for by China Telecom and China Unicom with SARFT.
In addition, according to document No. 39 and as strengthened in the document No. 97, the Licence to Broadcast Audio-visual Programs on Information Networks must be obtained from SARF in order to be engaged in the operation of the IPTV integrated broadcast control general platform and sub-platforms, national and provincial IPTV content service platforms and IPTV transmission service.
(2) Internet TV
Internet TV, in essence, is a kind of internet video service for the television terminal. The main difference between IPTV and the Internet TV is the transmission through the Internet or telecommunications network. Therefore, Internet TV is basically not created as a result of the network convergence but given its similarity in function with IPTV and fast development in China, this paper also explains the administrative regulations on the Internet TV.
The policies on Internet TV mainly include: “Regulations of Audio-visual Programs Transmission through Information Network such as the Internet” (No. 39) issued on July 6, 2004, “Regulations of Internet Audio-visual Program Service Management” (No. 56) jointly issued by SARFT and Ministry of Industry and Information Technology on December 20, 2007, “Internet TV Content Service Management Practices” and “Internet TV Integrated Business Management Practices” issued by SARFT in 2010,and “Requirements of Operation and Management of Agencies Holding Internet TV Licences” (G.B.F.W.Z. (2011) No.181) issued in December 2011 and Document No.229 released in 2015.
To sum up the above documents, regulation of Internet TV in China mainly focuses on the Internet TV content service platform, Internet TV integrated platform and the Internet TV terminal devices.
The Internet TV integrated platform requires a license for “Internet TV Integrated Business”, and can only choose to connect with the legal content service platforms established by the Internet TV content service agencies approved by SARFT. Before connecting with the service platform, the Internet TV integration agency should examine the legitimacy of the Internet TV content service platform, and can’t interlink the integrated platform with the websites established on the public internet, and can’t directly provide the content on the public website to the users. At present, the seven licences for integrated broadcast control are held by CNTV, China International Broadcasting Network (CIBN), CNR (China National Radio), SMC TV Media, WASU Media, HNTV (www. imgo.tv) and BesTV.
The Internet TV content service platform requires the “Licence for the Internet TV Content Service”. The Internet TV content service platform can only connect with the Internet TV integrated platforms approved by SARFT and can't connect with illegal integrated platforms. At the same time, the content service platform can’t interlink itself with any website established on the public Internet. At the current stage, the Internet TV content service mainly includes providing videos-on-demand and graphic information to users and temporarily excludes the live radio and television broadcast. At present, besides the above seven agencies with the integrated broadcast control licence, the organisations holding the license for "Internet TV content service" are the program production centre of CCTV.com Movie, CUTV, BTV, YNTV, Shandong Satellite Television, HBTV and JSTV.
Internet TV terminal products can only connect with the Internet TV integration platform, shall not have other channels to access the internet and shall not connect with relevant management systems and databases of network operation enterprises. The integration agency can embed only one Internet TV integrated platform address in the Internet TV terminal products. The terminal products and the platform are bound together completely, which means that the integrated platform is unique to the control and management of the terminal products. The integration agency should submit the client number application to SARFT after it has chosen the types, manufacturers and models of the terminal products it intends to use. SARFT will authorise and grant the relevant number range to the qualified terminal products in accordance with the current numbering rules of Internet TV clients, which stipulates the unified distribution, authorisation in batches and one number for one machine. Then the authorised integrated agency shall determine the number of each Internet TV client under the principle of uniqueness.
Besides, according to the relevant provisions of Document No.39 and Document No.56, the electronic products, such as the TV setting connected with the internet and set-top boxes, must obtain the Licence for Audio-visual Programs Broadcasted on the Information Network for the “integrated operation service of audio-visual programs with the television set as the receiving terminal”, in order to provide audio-visual programs to the users at the television terminal.
According to some unpublished information, administrative control of SARFT to Internet TV has been gradually rigid and compelling.
III. Administrative Regulation of the Broadcast of the Information-network-disseminated Audio-visual
Programs on Computer Terminals
The network convergence in the broadcast of the information-network-disseminated audio-visual programs on computer terminals is mainly reflected in the cooperation in the content. Major television and radio stations have already provided online viewing or listening services of their own products. But in this kind of cooperation model, the telecom operators are still responsible for the transmission.
Therefore, the administrative regulation of the broadcast of the information-network-disseminated audio-visual programs on computer terminals hasn’t been divided in accordance with different technologies. The supervision of the internet audio-visual programs is mainly based on “Regulations of Audio-visual Programs Transmission through Information Network such as the Internet” (No. 39) issued on July 6, 2004, “Regulations of Internet Audio-visual Program Service Management” (No. 56) jointly issued by SARFT and Ministry of Industry and Information Technology on December 20, 2007.
That is, in order to be engaged in the internet audio-visual program service, one shall obtain the Licence for Audio-visual Programs Broadcasted on the Information Network issued by SARFT, or handle the record-filing procedures. However, in accordance with the “Catalogue of Internet Audio-visual Program Service Business (Interim)” published in 2010, the audio-visual program services provided to the computer users through the public internet are divided into four categories: the first category, the internet audio-visual program service in the form of radio or television stations; the second and the third categories, the internet audio-visual program service; the fourth category, the rebroadcast internet audio-visual program service. Each category is further divided into specific items, which in total contain 17 items.
The relevant Licence for Audio-visual Programs Broadcasted on the Information Network shall be obtained in accordance with the requirements of the services. However, for several services such as the internet audio-visual program rebroadcast service, few audio-visual websites have been obtained the approval to conduct relevant services, except the subordinate websites of the television websites.
IV. Conclusion and Prospects
As mentioned above, with the development of China's information network technology and with the support of relevant policies, the audio-visual programs have more communication channels and ways. However, new problems also come along. Since the legislation usually lags, it takes time for the supervision to be put in place. Nevertheless, with the spread of new products and new technologies the regulation of information-network-disseminated audio-visual programs will improve and become more comprehensive in China. But if the administrative regulation is too strict, it will also have a negative effects on the relevant industries. Therefore, the lawmakers and regulators need to weigh the pros and cons. Moreover, foreign investors are still banned from this field.
Zhengning Li is a member of Chinese Society of International Law. During his practicing, Mr Li specialises in investment and project financing in many fields, including energy and renewables, mining and resource, media laws, TMT and medical, entertainment, sports and travelling. Mr Li has a deep understanding of PRC laws and policies, sharp thinking and quick response. He is good at designing deal structures for projects with different purpose. His proposals in deadlock during negotiations and transactions always gain him high reputation from both clients and counter parties. Mr Li’s essays studying China’s stream piracy on the internet were recommended by All China Lawyers Association and Beijing Lawyers Association.
Hylands Law Firm
After a five-year pilot study, the State Council
issued the Network Convergence Promotion Plan
in 2015. According to the plan, upon the completion of the network convergence pilot phase, the comprehensive promotion of the network convergence will be launched to expand the bidirectional access of the radio and television service and the telecom service nationwide.