China blocks Sun TV signal in content crackdown

China has revoked permission for cable operators to distribute commercial network Sun TV due to its outspoken talk shows, sources said today, as part of a government crackdown on content deemed sensitive and too bold. The country’s censors have become increasingly intolerant of content that pushes the envelope on politically incorrect or sensitive topics. Police have detained about 3,500 people in a crackdown on online pornography so far this year and closed thousands of websites.

“From Dec 5, audiences in mainland China cannot receive our signals, but the programming is still broadcast in Hong Kong and overseas,” said an employee at Sun TV’s parent company in Hong Kong. He declined to give his name or title for fear of political repercussions. “The ministry responsible for this did not notify Sun TV beforehand. So far their reasons are unclear, but we are trying to get an explanation.”

A media industry source with knowledge of the move told Reuters: “Sun’s broadcast rights were revoked because guests called for political reform.”

Sun TV is fully owned by Hong Kong-listed Sun Television Cybernetworks Enterprise Ltd. Talk shows broadcast by the channel, founded by Chinese talk show celebrity Yang Lan before being acquired by think-tank researcher-turned-businessman Chen Ping, had recently become bolder and featured politically outspoken guests.

Sun TV reached a limited audience in China, primarily in higher-income residential compounds. Sun TV signals would still be available to high-end hotels, the media industry source said, but this could not be independently confirmed.

Besides Hong Kong, Sun TV programs are also distributed in Taiwan, Macau and countries in Southeast Asia.