After it was announced earlier this week that China would be pulling the plug on online streaming of “The Big Bang Theory”, among other popular US shows being featured on Chinese video sites, a Beijing-based film translation company said that it’s now working on a…wait for it…censored version of the show to be broadcast on CCTV. Blech.
Global Times reports that “While the company promises to preserve the show’s humorous content, some segments will be deleted”.
It’s unclear why exactly China’s net nannies decided that a sitcom centered on the misadventures of a group of socially awkward physicists was considered too provocative for Chinese viewers, but naturally, regulator issued no real reasoning. And, frankly, they don’t need to. Users who tried watching the show on video servers like Sohu and Youku were met with explanations that “the video is currently unavailable due to policy reasons”.
What’s even stranger, as the Wall Street Journal points out, is that while relatively harmless shows like “The Big Bang Theory” were nicked from China’s streaming sites, some the more scandalous, such as “House of Cards” and “Game of Thrones”, are still being aired.
Xinhua reported that copyrights for the show appeared to be in order and People’s Daily editorial offered some attempt at defending the recent development in an editorial published on Monday filled with all the typical jargon: “If you don’t have Internet order, how can you have Internet freedom?” the commentary said.
“Anyone enjoying and exercising their Internet rights and freedoms must not harm the public interest and cannot violate laws and regulations and public ethics.”
The government’s order to take the show off of streaming sites could have to do with its sheer popularity. The series has more than a billion views in China alone, according to WSJ. One commenter suggested that the reason was to bolster views of state-run or sponsored shows, as even Chinese officials have even acknowledged that the content pales in viewership (and original quality) compared to China’s beloved Korean dramas and Western counterparts.
Either way, fans of the show are naturally none-too-pleased. “I feel more and more strongly that I am living in North Korea,” one Chinese netizen was quoted as saying in the WSJ report.
News of a “cleaned-up” version of the already family-friendly show also didn’t fare too well with fans, and many netizens have called for a rating system to be implemented instead of censorship.