Tough times ahead, it seems, for the English-language magazines up north in Beijing. Too months ahead of the Olympics, the powers that be have declared time out on Time Out Beijing, writes Jane Macartney of The Times:
The June issue of Time Out Beijing has been banned from distribution by China’s censors, The Times has learnt. But the decision seems to have been taken not because of any racy or politically incorrect content. Time Out Beijing has fallen victim to the accelerating imposition of restrictions on any aspect of life in the capital deemed to pose a potential threat to a smooth Olympics.
Tom Pattinson, the editor of the magazine, hinted that the timing — just two months before Beijing plays host to the Summer Games — was not coincidence. He told The Times: “The magazine has been impounded while officials look at licensing issues. But these have not changed in the past three and a half years and it is perhaps a strange time to question an issue that has not been a problem before.”
The ostensible reason given by the General Administration of Press and Publications for pulping the June issue was that the magazine lacked a proper licence. But Time Out Beijing has published ever since its launch without completing the proper paperwork and this had never raised eyebrows among the censors who were well aware of one of the most prominent of the tiny number of English-language publications in the capital.
The English edition was at first distributed effectively as an insert to the Chinese-language magazine — which does possess the proper licence. Gaining a publishing licence in a country where all publications are carefully monitored by cultural commissars is a long and tortuous process. For a foreign title, the procedures are doubly difficult and involve publication under the title of a usually defunct local magazine… [more]
The article goes on to say media pundits think we will only see another copy of the magazine after the Olympics, while an official with the Press and Publications Administration has plead ignorance, saying, “If there is such a magazine, it wasn’t approved by us in the first place.”
All a great pity, because we thought Time Out Beijing was one of the best English-language magazines in China in terms of editorial content. It was also one of the more forward-looking ones, having been the first English-language publication to devote one full page in each issue to gay and lesbian news. Check out the PDF version of the June issue that was pulled off the shelves here.
And that’s not all: Beijing Boyce dishes up more gossip on the English-language media scene in the capital:
Meanwhile, True Run Media, which has produced that’s Beijing since 2001, will move on. The magazine’s publisher, China Intercontinental Press, owns the “that’s” trademark and will take over the entire gig as of next issue. If you are in the publishing industry, you might guess the magazine’s biggest problem: it made money. That was, is, and will always be its problem.
If what happens to that’s Beijing is anything like the that’s China saga of a few years ago, we can expect an immediate nosedive in quality and a whole feedlot of stories about pork biotechnology (hmm, I wonder if that had anything to do with those science park ads?).
In any case, True Run Media will not remain idle. Expect a new magazine next month that is similar in layout and content to that’s Beijing. The name: The Beijinger.
In the comment section of the post is more dirt dug up by Mark Kitto. For those of you that have been around long enough, Kitto was one of the original founders of That’s Shanghai who says his magazine empire got “stolen by the state”, and who now runs Moganshan Lodge.