China's Video Site Back Online After More Than a Month

One of China's top three online video sites resumed service Friday, after an unexplained interruption of over a month.

56.com reappeared Friday after being offline since early June. In the interim, a message to users attributing the stoppage to technical expansion of 56.com's services was the only public statement the company made on the matter.

The State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (SARFT) which regulates broadcast and online content providers, never specifically stated that the site was banned or suspended, but 56.com, along with China's other top online video sites, Youku.com and Tudou.com, were absent from a list of 247 authorized online video providers issued by SARFT June 18.

Representatives from 56.com could not be reached immediately for comment.

Youku.com said Thursday that it had received a license from SARFT, one week after announcing a US$30 million round of funding plus $10 million in equipment credits. Tudou.com remains operational but has made no announcement about its legal status.

China closely regulates online content. Because China's television and radio broadcasters are all owned and operated by the state, online video sites represent a possible outlet for unofficial versions of events to reach viewers. Protests in Tibet in March and the May 12 earthquake in Sichuan highlighted how quickly video can be posted online.

With the approach of the Beijing Olympics in August, Chinese officials said Wednesday that "severe penalties" would be issued for unauthorized broadcast of Olympic events. It did not specify penalties, nor did it say if footage taken and posted to video sites by attendees would be included. Only China Central Television (CCTV) is authorized to broadcast the Beijing Olympics within China.

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