China Approves Video Site Youku's License

Youku.com became the first of China's three largest online video Web sites to receive government permission to operate, the company said Thursday.

The company confirmed by e-mail that the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (SARFT), China's overseer for content, both broadcast and online, had approved it for operation.

Youku.com, along with Tudou.com and 56.com, were noticeably absent from a group of 247 Web sites that SARFT approved on June 18 to provide online videos. Since early June, 56.com has been inaccessible, and remains so, despite a note on its home page that it is merely going through a technical upgrade. Tudou.com remains operational.

Youku.com raised $30 million plus $10 million in equipment loans, it said June 30, ahead of its SARFT approval.

China censors Internet content in a variety of ways, and is particularly wary of online video, which may present a swift and unofficial version of events such as March's protests in Tibet and May's earthquake in Sichuan province.

On Wednesday China's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology announced "severe penalties" for any unauthorized broadcast of Olympic events. It did not say clearly whether this would include footage of events taken by attendees at the games, nor did it specify penalties. State-run China Central Television (CCTV) is China's only authorized broadcaster for the Beijing Olympics, and other entities wishing to provide Olympic material must use CCTV's feed.

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