BEIJING China's media regulator has issued new rules banning foreign television shows from being shown at primetime as the country tries to encourage domestic programming, state media reported on Tuesday.
Foreign television series must be capped at a total of 50 episodes and the running time for an imported series must not exceed 25 percent of the total time a given channel dedicates to broadcasting such shows, the official China Daily reported.
Most foreign television series shown on Chinese channels are from Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea, Thailand and India.
U.S.-made shows are highly popular, but mostly watched online or via pirated DVDs which are widely and cheaply available on the streets.
According to the announcement by the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television, Chinese stations are prohibited from airing foreign series between 7 pm and 10 pm, and must not "intensively" broadcast shows from just one country.
Chinese networks are forbidden too from airing unapproved shows produced by companies outside of China and foreign series that contain violent or vulgar material, the rules state.
"Regulatory bodies around the country must increase their supervision over foreign television shows broadcast on television stations at all levels, and increase fines levied for those who break the rules," it said.
The China Daily said the regulations were "to protect domestic cultural products and ... help create a favorable environment for TV shows made by companies on the Chinese mainland."
China periodically tries reining in its state-run television channels, which increasingly have to rely on attracting advertisers and therefore viewers as government subsidies are reduced.
In 2002, Beijing pulled the plug on the Taiwan-made soap opera "Meteor Garden," fearing that the decadent lifestyle portrayed by boy band "F4" would corrupt young Chinese minds. China described the series as "electronic heroin."
(Reporting by Beijing newsroom; Editing by Ben Blanchard)