China extends prime-time ban on foreign cartoons

BEIJING (Reuters) - China will extend its prime-time ban on foreign cartoons by an hour and demand that local television stations seek approval from censors before broadcasting them, the country’s media watchdog said in a circular.

From May 1, foreign cartoons would be prohibited from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. on local channels, China’s State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (SARFT) said, extending a 2006 order that had banned cartoons from 5 pm to 8 pm.

The watchdog also demanded TV stations observe a daily broadcast ratio of 7:3 for Chinese-made cartoons versus foreign cartoons, as part of a campaign to “provide a favourable environment for the innovation of China’s cartoon industry,” SARFT said in a statement posted on it’s Web site ( late on Tuesday.

The statement praised past restrictions on foreign cartoons for “expanding the output of local content and continuously improving the quality of works”, adding that 2007 broadcast minutes of home-grown cartoons had increased 23 percent on the previous year.

It also asked broadcasters and administrators to increase funding to buy and develop local cartoons.

The regulation follows an order last week by China’s General Administration of Press and Publications (GAPP) to producers to cleanse their broadcasts of ghosts, monsters and other video content made “for the sole purpose of seeking terror and horror”.

Following a barrage of criticism from bemused Internet surfers, GAPP said Chinese classics with supernatural elements and movies such as those in the “Harry Potter” series would be exempted from the crackdown, in comments published by the official People’s Daily on Wednesday.

China, where DVDs of graphic, pirated sex and horror movies are available on most street corners, is keen to step up its control of the cultural arena ahead of the Beijing Olympics in August, which are seen as a chance to showcase the country’s rising political and economic clout.

Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Ken Wills and David Fox