Late last week, several reports appeared on the Chinese internet claiming that Tudou, one of China's biggest YouTube clones, was ordered to shut down by the State Administration for Radio Film and Television. (See good roundups on the situation on Danwei, Poynter, and CNet among others.) This shutdown news - or rumor, if you will - came on the heels of a reported partnership between CCTV.com, Tudou and Myspace China to "provide an online platform for Olympics viewers to interact with athletes and each other." On Thursday folks over at Marbridge Consulting confirmed the shutdown order via their official sources, posting this report:
Sources say that the direct cause of the breakdown between Tudou and CCTV.com is the Shutdown Order Regarding Punishment of Tudou for Illegal Online Video Broadcasting issued by the State Administration of Radio Film and Television (SARFT) to Shanghai broadcasting authorities on February 24.
The order states that Tudou is suspected of transmitting pornographic and other clearly proscribed content, and of continuing to be lax in its monitoring of content following the promulgation of SARFT's new regulations on online broadcasting. Tudou was ordered to shut down for an unlimited duration to reorganize its content. On February 26, word of the order, which had circulated throughout all levels of the broadcasting authorities, reached CCTV. An inside source revealed that Wang Wenbin, head of CCTV.com, saw the letter on that day - one day before the CCTV.com, MySpace China, and Tudou press conference. The next day Tudou CEO Wang Wei's speech was dropped from the press conference, and media at the press conference were told not to report this.
When contacted, Tudou's public relations department said that they had not received a Shutdown Order targeted at the company.
Editor's note: In a telephone interview with Marbridge, relevant authorities confirmed that such an injunction had been issued against Tudou. However, no confirmation was given concerning the details outlined in the article above. A check of Tudou's site (www.tudou.com) as of the close of business today found it still functioning normally.
Tudou continues to function normally as of this writing. On Saturday Steve Shwankert reported for PC World (via the Washington Post) that rumors about Tudou's closing "appear unfounded."
Kaiser Kuo cites sources who think that Tudou may be getting its hand slapped for not taking new online video regulations that went into effect on January 31st seriously enough. This is despite reports in early February that existing video websites would be "grandfathered in" to the new regulatory system. Kaiser writes:
Other industry insiders have intimated to me that Tudou had been somewhat cavalier in pursuing compliance with the new SARFT/MII regulations on Internet audio and video broadcast, but when the date of implementation, January 31, passed without incident, and when SARFT clarified the regulations in a statement the following week suggesting that non-compliant sites would be given a period to resolve problems and restructure so as to be compliant and would be permitted to apply for a proper license, most industry insiders believed the worst was probably over. However, in conversations with highly-placed industry insiders earlier this week, this reporter was given strong indications that another shoe was yet to fall. Without mentioning Tudou.com by name, these insiders intimated that a “black list” was making the rounds and some form of punishment would be meted out.
It smells as though some kind of substantial power struggle must be going on for control of online content, broadcast content, and beyond... resulting in all kinds of mixed signals. Don't forget that some members of the Chinese media openly opposed the new SARFT regulations. Perhaps certain parts of the Chinese media are being used as proxies - or are maybe even taking sides - in this battle? If the shutdown order was indeed issued (which seems very likely) and Tudou is ignoring it, they must have some strong backing in the bureaucracy somewhere to push back against SARFT, no?
I've heard all kinds of strange and wild rumors from various people over the past few months, including one especially wild rumor claiming that there are arguments being made in some quarters to abolish SARFT altogether... or that there is likely to be some kind of major reorganization of the various regulatory bodies that regulate and control entertainment and news content. But who knows. Often times such rumors reflect wishful thinking of certain players within the bureaucracy and nothing much more. The tea leaf reading continues. But if anybody out there has any concrete information to add to this mystery, it sure would be great to know about it.