The State Administration of Radio Film and Television (SARFT) has announced that from now on all televised documentaries in China need to be submitted to SARFT for review first, raising broad concerns on Friday.
The new policy, which comes into effect immediately, stipulates that all television documentaries for public broadcast, produced by television stations, commercial studios and social organizations, should submit a content summary, cast list and shooting plan to SARFT before filming starts.
SARFT will then review all the information and publish the approved list of documentaries to TV stations. According to the announcement, the purpose of the new policy is to avoid subjects overlapping and resources being wasted.
The announcement requires documentaries which are scheduled to shoot in the first half and second half of this year to submit their information to SARFT before April 20 and July 1 respectively.
However, the new policy has met with a barrage of anxious questions from documentary filmmakers.
"I really don't think this is necessary or feasible. For some significant topics, I can understand they need to be submitted for review, but not for all documentaries," Yu Yongjin, a documentary editor for Shanghai Television Station, told the Global Times Friday.
"I don't know why they made this policy. Imagine the huge number of documentaries China produces each year, I doubt if they have enough manpower to fulfill this task. It's almost mission impossible to carry out this policy," Shu Haolun, professor at the School of Film and Television Arts of Shanghai University, told the Global Times.
But other independent filmmakers are more concerned that this new policy will limit and harm the development of documentary filmmaking.
"Many documentaries involve sensitive topics which might upset the government. Now they can more easily reject such story ideas through this policy which I think harms our freedom of speech," the CEO of an independent film production, who asked not to be named, told the Global Times.
Ai Xiaoming, a professor from the Guangzhou-based Sun Yat-sen University and independent documentary director, said the government should not interfere in the freedom of the arts by setting up such checks.
When the Global Times reached SARFT on Friday, a staff member in charge of collecting information about documentaries refused to answer questions. Another employee from the department of international cooperation said the new policy would serve mainly to count the number of documentaries produced each year.