In December 2018, the General Office of the National Radio and Television Administration issued the Notice on Upgrading the Information Recordal System for Online Audio-Visual Programmes. The notice makes adjustments to such recordal regulatory items as the recordal entity and procedure for key online films and dramas, recordal reviews, etc. This column examines the most recent revised recordal regulatory policies governing Chinese-produced key online films and dramas.
Scope of “key online films and dramas”. Pursuant to the notice, online dramas and online animations with an investment exceeding RMB5 million (US$745,000), and online films with an investment exceeding RMB1 million, will be subject to regulation by way of recordal as the key online films and dramas. Key online films and dramas are listed exhaustively in the notice (i.e., all items are listed), including only three types (online dramas, online animations and online films), while excluding online variety shows and other online audio-visual programmes. However, it should be noted that current laws do not expressly define such terms as “online drama”, “online film”, etc.
Recordal entity. Pursuant to the notice, the recordal entity for key online films and dramas is its production organization. Currently, an online audio-visual service entity (the platform) that produces online films and dramas, and broadcasts them on its website, is additionally required to secure a radio and television programme production permit and an audio-visual service permit (AVSP); other entities that produce online films and dramas are required to secure a radio and television programme production permit pursuant to the law.
Recordal procedure and review. After the revision of the notice, two recordals are required to be carried out for the key online films and dramas, namely planning recordal and release recordal.
Planning recordal: Online submission is to be carried out for planning recordal before production of the key online films and dramas commences. The information provided for planning recordal is subject to review by the competent radio and television authority and, following a successful review, the production organization will receive a planning recordal number and the competent radio and television authority will make the information publicly available. If a major or special subject is involved, a separate hard copy version of the recordal form is to be submitted to the relevant competent radio and television authority, the opinion of relevant authorities is to be sought and other procedures need to be completed in accordance with the law.
Release recordal: Release recordal is carried out after filming and production are completed. In addition to online submission of the recordal information, the relevant hard copy materials and programme medium are to be sent to the competent radio and television authority. Once the content passes control by the competent radio and television authority, the production organization will receive a release recordal number and the competent radio and television authority will make the information publicly available. The production organization is required to indicate the release recordal number at the beginning of the online films and dramas.
The authors note that information provided for planning recordal is subject to review by the competent radio and television authority, whereas the information provided for release recordal is subject to content control by the competent radio and television authority. Accordingly, the recordal of key online films and dramas is subject to substantive restriction in the review by the competent radio and television authority, giving rise to the risk that a key online film and drama may not be produced, or may not be broadcast online, if it fails to pass review by the competent radio and television authority. This represents a major difference compared with the previous after-the-fact supervision mechanism for online films and dramas.
Information provided for recordal. At the planning recordal stage, the production organization is required to provide such planning information as the title of the programme, the type of programme, the subject matter, any co-production organizations, the intended broadcasting platform, a content overview (not less than 1,500 characters), a description of the ideological content (not less than 300 characters), etc. At the release recordal stage, the information that the production organization is required to provide includes the platform on which the programme is to be broadcast, the actual investment, the remuneration of the actors, a synopsis of each episode of the online programme or online animation (not less than 300 characters per episode), etc.
With respect to the recent requirements of the competent radio and television authority for the amount and the percentage of the remuneration paid to the actors, the notice includes both the actual investment and the remuneration of the actors as information that is to be provided for the recordal of a key online film and drama. Accordingly, if the total amount or percentage of the remuneration to be paid to the actors does not satisfy the requirements of relevant policies, the same could result in the online film and drama failing to pass the review by the radio and television authority.
Furthermore, once recordal of a key online film or drama is completed, the competent radio and television authority will make the relevant recordal information available to the public and also require the production organization to issue a written undertaking on the truthfulness of the recordal information. It should be particularly noted that once submitted, the information provided for release recordal cannot be revised.
Transition period. The notice requires that the new key online films and dramas recordal policy be implemented from 15 February 2019. Pursuant to the Operational Guidelines for the Key Online Films and Dramas Information Recordal System, where a platform has made the submission for the planning recordal of key online films and dramas before 5:30pm on 14 February 2019, the recordal work will be carried out by the existing procedure and in accordance with the administrative requirements.
The authors recommend that domestic film producers pay close attention to the revised policy for the regulation of the production of online films and dramas, and familiarize themselves in advance with the procedure for the recordal of key online films and dramas and the compliance requirements for their content. Also, when co-operating with a broadcasting platform, they should expressly specify the division of responsibility for recordal matters and the obligation of assistance of each party.
Tao Shan and Zhu Zhitong are partners at Hylands Law Firm
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