China Tightens Grip on Media and Film by Shifting Regulation to Propaganda Department

March 21, 2018 Updated: March 21, 2018

BEIJING—China is consolidating film, news, and publishing regulation under the powerful Chinese Communist Party propaganda department, strengthening Beijing’s grip over content as the country looks to bolster its “soft power” domestically and overseas.

The media shake-up, reported by Reuters on Wednesday and confirmed by state-run media Xinhua, signals tighter media control amid a broad crackdown on news, online content, and film that goes against Party values.

The shift also comes as China looks to merge ministries and create new regulators overseeing matters from banking to food safety in the biggest government shake-up in years.

The reorganization would mean the propaganda department would play a “special and important role in propaganda ideology and cultural entertainment,” said a notice seen by Reuters from the ruling Party’s Central Committee dated March 19.

Xinhua published the notice on March 21.

The body will take on powers over film, news, and publishing, previously held by the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film, and Television, which was dissolved earlier this month as part of the wider reshuffle.

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A man stands in front of movie posters for ‘Wolf Warriors 2,’ a domestic film with heavy nationalistic overtones, in Beijing, China on Aug. 7, 2017. (Greg Baker/AFP/Getty Images)

The Chinese Communist Party is increasingly leveraging cultural products such as movies, rap music, and even video games to promote “socialist values,” a modernizing push to make sure it avoids falling out of touch with youth.

This has also seen a major tightening over online content from ramped up censorship of microblogs, culls on live-streaming platforms, and regulators criticizing some of the country’s top internet firms over content.

Industry insiders said putting the media regulator directly under the propaganda department would increase already heavy-handed censorship. Last year, a sweeping crackdown on internet content spooked filmmakers, bloggers, and media professionals.

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A Chinese woman passes the CCTV building in Beijing, China on December 8, 2015. (Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)

In addition, China has also approved the creation of a new broadcaster called “Voice of China,” which will consolidate several existing state TV and radio stations including China Central Television (CCTV), China Global Television Network, China National Radio, and China Radio International.

The central authorities’ notice said that the newly created broadcaster, which will report directly to the propaganda department, will “guide hot social issues, boost multimedia integration and development, strengthen international communication, and tell good China stories.”


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