Live-streaming has gained its momentum in China since as early as 2015. It is estimated that there are nearly 200 online live-streaming websites in China, with the total user population of more than 200 million. Popular platforms could have hundreds of thousands of active users in one live-streaming “room” at peak time. Professional gamers such as Dota 2 or League of Legends players are one the most popular streamers. Good-looking women–usually wearing revealing outfits–who talk about lifestyle, fashion or simply interact with their audience are also quite popular to Chinese “Zhai Nan”, or “house male”– a term referring to male addicted to staying home and playing computer games.

These platforms offer celebrity or non-celebrity performers money for their live-streams. Viewers can send the performers virtual “gifts” when they see something they like, while the performers can then trade the value of those “gifts” for actual cash. A live-streamer’s income averages $3,000 RMB ($588 CAD) a month by broadcasting a few hours a day. A recent report showed 31.2 percent of the live streamers are in this industry for money rather than exposure.

The live-streaming business remained largely a grey area–until recently. Below are major campaigns by Chinese authorities targeted at the the country’s live-streaming platforms. 

In July 2016, the Internet Crime Reporting Centre (ICRC) of China’s Ministry of Public Security held a work meeting to strengthen its management over internet live-streaming platforms. The ICRC announced that a specialized campaign will be carried out from now on to the end of October to inspect on a full scale to see if online live-streaming platforms have followed and enforced relevant cyber-management regulations.

Specifically, the campaign will focus on removing  “illegal and harmful information” from these platforms, shut down accounts or channels that disseminate illegal content, and punish live-streaming platforms that break the laws and regulations. It is reported that three types of live-streaming platforms will be the main targets of the campaign: first, platforms that are frequently reported by the public or Internet users, second, platforms that have allegedly involved in providing sexual performances, gambling, and other illegal content, and third, companies that fail to systematically manage itself or follow rules.

Meanwhile, the public security bureau will push forward the real name registration of live-streamers and website administrators as well as phone number registration of ordinary users. It will also collaborate with internet live-streaming platforms to curb the dissemination of “pornographic, violent, horrifying, crime-inciting and other illegal information” or any sexual, gambling, and spam activities.

The campaign is a continuation of Chinese authorities’ efforts to regulate live-streaming platforms and part of China’s move to “Clean the Web” as a whole. On April 14, 2016, China’s Ministry of Culture announced that all of the major streaming platforms, including Douyu, Panda.tv, Huya,YY, Zhanqi TV, 9158, are under investigation for hosting content that was too vulgar, sexual, or violent, and even content that incites users to commit crimes.

Chinese President Xi Jinping has urged regulators and Internet practitioners to “enhance cybersecurity” and ensure “high quality content with positive voices creating a healthy, positive culture that is a force for good at a symposium on cybersecurity on April 19 2016.

A more recent regulation comes from the Ministry of Culture, which issued a guideline in July 2016 stipulating for the first time that live-broadcasting performers will now be held accountable for any content that is deemed inappropriate, and serious violators will be blacklisted nationwide.

What about laws and regulations? 

In China, censorship is usually outsourced to Internet companies, which is a central part of regulators’ strategy in trying to keep tight control over 668 million Internet users and the hundreds of news, video and social media websites. As the live-streaming business getting bigger and bigger, authorities from China’s Ministry of Culture, State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television, and relevant institutes have promulgated various policies and regulations on the industry.

In April 2016, over 20 Beijing-based Internet companies have signed a Beijing Internet Performing (Live-Broadcasting) Industry Self-Regulation Action Convention (《北京网络表演(直播)行业自律行动公约》), which I’ve translated as below.

Beijing Internet Performing (Live-Broadcasting) Industry Self-Regulation Action Convention 北京网络表演(直播)行业自律行动公约
  1. Conduct real-name verification on all anchors
  1. Starting from April 18 2016, all newly registered anchors on all platforms shall follow the steps below and verify their identity:
    1. Upload real name information. This should include at least: name, identification card number, cellphone number, bank account information (must match that of the application’s name), a photo of the anchor holding his/her ID card (photo and number on the ID card should be clear and identifiable)
    2. Authenticate information: After the application complete these information and upload relevant documents, the system will verify the authenticity of the applicant’s information. The provided bank account number, name of the bank account holder, name of the applicant and ID card number must be true, validated, and match each other. If the information provided does not fit our requirements or does not match one another, the authentication shall not be approved.
    3. Face-to-face manual authentication. During the manual authentication process, the applicant needs to answer a number of questions via video chat with the authenticator and the authentication process shall not last less than one minute. If the authenticator verifies that the information uploaded by the applicant is that of the applicant himself/herself and it fulfills all the requirements, the authentication shall be approved. If not, no authentication shall be approved. The video recorded during the manual authentication process will be stored permanently for future checks and reference.  
一、对所有主播进行实名认证

1、自2016年4月18日起,各平台新申请主播将按以下要求进行认证。(1)实名信息提交环节。应至少包括:本人姓名;本人身份证号码;本人手机号码;银行卡账户信息(必须与申请者本人姓名完全一致);主播本人手持身份证照片(身份证照片与号码清晰可辨认)。


(2)资料认证环节:在申请者完整填写了资料提交申请后,系统对申请者资料进行真实性认证。验证银行卡号、开户人姓名、认证者本人姓名、身份证号真实有效且完全匹配,如不符合要求或信息不匹配,则不允许认证。

(3)面对面人工认证。人工认证时申请者需在与审核人员视频聊天的过程中回答若干问题,认证过程不得少于1分钟。在审核人员认定申请者与所提交的资料为同一人且满足平台认证要求,则予以通过认证。否则不予通过认证。认证过程视频录像永久保存备查。

2) No live-broadcasting application registration channel shall be provided to minors under 18-year-old. 2、不为18岁以下的未成年人提供主播注册通道。
3) Existing anchors who have not completed real-name verification shall complete the verification by June 1 2016. 3、现有主播未进行实名认证的,于2016年6月1日前完成实名认证。
4) All live-broadcasting platforms shall arrange specific staff to store verification information uploaded by anchors and shall not leak them. 4、主播认证的信息,各直播平台安排专人进行保管,不得外泄。
5) If for subjective reasons, a platform or company is not able to cross-reference and verify the applicant’s bank account and ID information, it shall require anchors to sign up for an verified Sina Weibo or a WeChat public account, which shall be displayed to the public at noticeable spots in the platform’s website and relevant live-broadcasting rooms. 5、因客观原因确实无法完成银行卡账户信息与身份证信息比对的平台企业,应要求主播开通实名认证微博或者微信公众号,并在平台网站和直播空间显著位置标示,向社会公示。
2. Watermarks shall be added to all live-broadcasting rooms.
The watermark shall include logo or name of the website and timestamp. It shall be positioned on the top left or right corner of the video screen. The size of the watermark shall be: width * height no less than 50 px * 25 px. The watermark shall be clear, identifiable, and overtly distinguishable from the rest of the video screen.
二、在所有直播房间内添加水印
水印应当包括网站Logo(或名称)和时间。水印位置应标注在视频画面左上角或右上角;尺寸:宽*高不小于50px*25px;水印与视频画面有明显区分,清晰可见。
3. Store all the live-broadcasting content.
If a platform provide multiple resolution levels of one video clip for users to watch, it shall store the video version with highest resolution and shall store it for no less than 15 days.  
三、对所有直播内容进行存储
如果平台对同一视频内容提供多种清晰度供用户选择观看,则应该保存最高清晰度或最高码率的版本,存储时间不少于15天。
4. Provide stronger training and guidance for anchors.
When anchors register and sign a contract, they shall be told explicitly about content prohibited by state laws and regulations and show that they acknowledge these laws and regulations. In daily management, platforms shall strengthen trainings on spoken language, body language, performance and other aspects for anchors and guide them to provide healthy, positive live-broadcasting content of various kinds.
四、加强对主播的培训及引导

在主播注册、签约时,应向主播明示国家法律、法规明令禁止的内容并得到主播认可。在日常管理过程中,平台应加强对主播的语言、形体、表演等方面的培训,引导其提供健康、积极、形式多样的直播内容。

5. Establish a blacklisted anchor system.
For anchors who broadcast content involving politics, gun, drug, violence and pornography, where circumstances are serious, all companies shall shut down their accounts, keep their user information as well as video evidence of the illegal content and upload these information to Beijing Internet Culture Association’s database for screening. If the content is determined to fall within the range of prohibited content, the Association will hand down the blacklist to all live-broadcasting platforms. All live-broadcasting platforms shall not provide live-broadcasting rooms to blacklisted anchors.
五、建立主播黑名单制度


对于播出涉政、涉枪、涉毒、涉暴、涉黄内容的主播,情节严重的,各公司除需要将此类主播封号外,同时要将该用户信息及违规视频证据保全,并上传至北京市网络文化协会数据库进行甄别,经确定属于黑名单范畴的,协会将黑名单下发各直播平台,各直播平台一律不得为列入黑名单的主播提供直播空间。

6. Implement enterprises’ responsibility.
Effective immediately, platforms shall take effective measures to conduct self-examination and improve internal management and content monitoring systems. Meanwhile, all platforms shall equip themselves with an enough amount of examiners who monitor the live-broadcasting content on the platform on a 24/7 basis. The post responsibility on information safety and contingency plans for emergencies shall be put into effect. Manual and technology-based inspection shall be employed together.
六、落实企业主体责任


即日起切实采取有效措施开展自查自纠,完善平台内部管理制度和内容审核机制。同时,各平台要配备足够数量的审核人员,对平台上的直播内容进行7*24小时实时监管。落实信息安全岗位责任和突发事件应急预案,人工及技术排查并举。

Beijing Municipal Internet Culture Association Internet Music and Performance Specialized Committee

6Room Youku Huajiao Yingke Miaopai Zaizhibo DoShow

April 13 2016

北京市网络文化协会网络音乐与表演专业委员会

六间房 优酷 花椒 映客 秒拍(小咖秀) 在直播 都秀


2016年4月13日

 

Its actual impact? According to Shen Rui, chief of the Beijing Municipal Internet Law Enforcement Team, live-streaming platforms are responsible for monitoring individuals and his team is mainly monitoring the platforms. If a platform is found to act weak on monitoring its users, it will faced penalty including warning and fines; serious violators will be ordered to suspend production or business, face rescission of a license or permit, shutdown of relevant websites, and the owner of the website may face administrative and criminal responsibilities.

So far, three criteria have been set to determine if a platform is liable for failing at content monitoring: 1) if a video of sexual content has been on live-broadcast for more than three minutes without being noticed, 2) if the length of video is short but has been on the platform for consecutive days, and 3) if a live-broadcast involving illegal content is announced in advance or promoted afterwards as publicity stunt and the platform has not banned the anchor’s account in time.

However, as the Convention is essentially a contract set up to help with the industry management and a convention that clarifies code of conduct and disciplinary violations, it’s only legally binding among the self-regulation administrative organizations, member signatories in the industry. Because the law-making body is enterprises and organizations within the industry, the Convention does not have the coercive force of state. As such, how effective the self-regulations listed in the Convention relies on how well each enterprise and organization follows the rules.

What is more of a strict regulation is a notice released by the SARFT. 

In early September 2016, China’s SARFT released Notice On Issues Concerning Strengthening Management Over Internet Audio-Visual Live-Broadcast Services (《关于加强网络视听节目直播服务管理有关问题的通知》). According to these newly released regulations, platforms and individuals who live-broadcast “events related to politics, military, economy, society, culture, sports, etc.” must have the License for Publication of Audio-Visual Programs through Information Network (《信息网络传播视听节目许可证》, the License) issued by the SARFT. Otherwises, platforms that opera live-broadcast channels or individuals who conduct online performances are not allowed to continues these services and business. Without permission by the SARFT and relevant government agencies, no organization or individual shall use “television”, “broadcast channel”, “radio”, “TV” or related terms to name or advertise the business . Moreover, any live-broadcasting activity shall be registered with and reported to provincial and above levels of the SARFT departments in advance.  

The Notice by the SARFT is expected to have a significant impact on the once vaguely regulated live-broadcasting industry. Prior to the Notice, enterprises engaging in the live-broadcasting industry only need to obtain an Internet Culture Business Permit (《网络文化经营许可证》) issued by the Ministry of Culture and/or the culture administrative department of a province, autonomous region or municipality. The application process is fairly easier than applying for the License, which is issued less often, has more requirements, and is not eligible to foreign-owned companies. 

As of May 31, 2016, there are 588 companies that have the License, a large number of which are traditional state-owned television and radio organizations such as China Radio International and China Network Television whereas only a few are obtained by video platforms such as Youku and LeEco. According to YY Live’s official website, YY Inc. has already obtained the License. However, Tian Ge, the company who operates 9158 and Sina Show, seems to only have the Internet Culture Business Permit. Platforms such as Panda TV, Douyu TV and Huya TV have already violated the regulations listed in the Notice just because they have “TV” in their name.

Here is a flowchart to show the application process.

process-of-applying-for-the-license

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