China heavily regulates live streaming because it is too hard to censor
Live streaming has taken the world by storm. Its exponential growth in the span of a few years is astounding. And in a country where censorship is common, China’s lonely and curious millenials sees this as an escape to see more of the world.
With the amount of users hungry for live stream entertainment, it has also become a massive business. About 344 million people have used the approximately 150 live streaming apps of China garnering about $4.3 billion or most likely even more.
This new type of relative freedom pushes the users to circumvent the system using these various live streaming apps. With the increasing popularity of live streaming, the Chinese government feels threatened because it is hard to regulate.
Live streaming has also massively increased the streamers income. Not just western streamers but also eastern streamers in countries like China. Hai Zhenzhen, a 21-year-old Chinese girl earns up to 30 times of what an average college graduate makes because of live streaming. She can work from home or anywhere else and doesn’t have a definite time. She uses a smartphone-based application called UpLive to stream videos of herself. Mundane tasks such as doing chores, singing or just talking to people at a minimum of two hours every weekday. This kind of easy income for most people can usually only be rivaled by sex work. However, for Hai, all she needs to do is to look pretty on camera for her viewers to watch her do mundane tasks and let her go on about her daily routine. The income plus the gifts from her fans make this an amazing and completely sustainable fun “job” hence new livestream celebs from gaming to mukbang (which is a livestream of a person eating) or to whatever livestream you can think of is on the rise.
However this week, this could spell trouble for streamers like Hai Zhenzhen. Authorities have ordered a ban on live streaming of the top three Chinese Internet platforms. This includes both video and audio streaming services.
According to the media regulator, the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television, “Most of the audiovisual content did not accord with national regulations or the political situation of the times, and its social commentary was propagating negative speech.” They also added that the three giants, Weibo iFeng and ACFUN lacked proper live streaming licenses.
Weibo, iFeng and ACFUN has been ordered to stop all its video and audio streaming services.
Weibo has acknowledged that it received a notice from The State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television of the People’s Republic of China (‘SAPPRFT’) ordering them to cease all live stream broadcasts.
Weibo stated that “The SAPPRFT had recently requested the local competent authorities to take measures to suspend several companies’ video and audio services due to their lacking of an internet audio/video program transmission license and posting of certain commentary programs with content in violation of government regulations on their sites, and Weibo is named as one of these companies”.
The ban itself is ambiguous. The exact reasons for this action by the Chinese authorities are still unclear. However, Stanley Rosen, a China expert and also a political professor at USC says “Anything live, the government is frightened by – anything they can’t control. By the time they crack down, the damage is done.”