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Weibo clamors for Sheldon following China’s ban on Big Bang

It is hardly news that China is big on censorship. But it is hard news for the Chinese fans that even “harmless” shows like The Big Bang Theory could still fall victim to China’s censors. News that four US TV shows, The Big Bang Theory, The Good Wife, NCIS and The Practice were taken off Chinese video streaming sites by the order of the government was met with great anger from the Chinese netizens most of whom are avid fans of the American TV shows.

Judging by the comments people left on Weibo, China’s equivalent of twitter, the fact that they can no longer have access to free up-to-date episodes of The Big Bang Theory hit them the most. “What are they thinking? Is it because the actor who plays Sheldon is gay? This is ridiculous!” wrote a Weibo user sarcastically. “How am I supposed to spend my Fridays without Sheldon? (Note: due to the time difference, the show, which is aired on Thursday in the US is updated every Friday in China)” quipped another.

Photo: weibo.com

Almost at the same time, the fans learnt that the China Central Television (CCTV), the State television broadcaster, is going to air Game of Thrones on one of its paid channels, which didn’t help their frustration that their beloved shows are off limits to them. “How come a ‘hardcore’ show like Game of Thrones gets aired and the Big Bang gets the ax?” many whined.

The ban came as a big surprise. Overnight, fans discovered that the shows that they’ve been following almost religiously every week were suddenly taken off the websites. Almost all major video streaming websites were affected. According to reports, insiders from tv.sohu.com and youku.com, two major Chinese video streaming sites, both admitted that the shows were removed from their websites due to a “new policy” from the State Administration of Radio Film and Television of China (SARFT).

Though surprising, the sudden move of yanking four popular American TV shows from the websites did not come without any forewarning. In March, the SARFT issued a notice on strengthening the censorship of online video contents, including the imported TV programs from the US and UK, which have a huge audience in China.

The four TV shows are merely the first of imported TV shows to face the new round of scrutiny. Other popular shows like The Walking Dead and Revenge will also face censorship. According to an article in the Global Times, a nationalist Chinese tabloid under the auspices of the People’s Daily, imported films and TV programs which are streamed online have not been censored before, which is unfair to the Chinese TV shows and films. The article argued that the decision to subject online content to censorship is to protect China’s own film and TV industry. Besides, it also serves the purpose of protecting the Chinese young people’s mental and physical health.

However, the Chinese have made it perfectly clear they are not going to watch the “rubbish” Chinese TV shows. They also pointed out that it is the Korean and Japanese soaps which are also popular in China that should be banned, not the American ones. The SARFT’s act was likened to the isolationist policy of the Qing dynasty, and even that of North Korea.

Another reason behind SARFT’s sudden move became clearer later on April 28. It was reported that the CCTV is planning to broadcast The Big Bang theory itself so that the Chinese audience could enjoy a “positive, healthy and green” Big Bang. This information again induced a collective wince from the Chinese users, fearing that a censored and dubbed version of the Big Bang will be no good.

Charles Zhang, CEO of Sohu.com Inc, said on Monday that the dropping of the four US TV shows from the Chinese video streaming websites is an “isolated incident” and does not signify any change in the Chinese government’s overall policy towards US TV shows. Sohu TV was the sole broadcaster of the Big Bang Theory in China.


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