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Thoughts on SARFT

Busy, stressful week. Quick thought:

SARFT – the State Administration of Radio, Film, and Television, or 广电局 for those in the know – is, like most if not all Chinese governmental organs, absolutely terrified of any change whatsoever in the status quo. Anything that might represent any loss to SARFT’s position as the Kings of All Media must be stopped right away – hence SARFT’s unending battle with the Ministry of Information Industries over who gets to control IPTV, or – more recently – its insistence that all online video, including that Youtube clip of the kitten boxing with the sock monkey, obtain content permits.

This is, of course, laughable, until you realize that they’re probably serious about it, and then it becomes kind of sad. I feel genuinely bad for SARFT: I used to think of them as joyless grey cogs of the type that inhabit Chinese government bureaus and American university administration, but now I see them more as a bunch of sad, frightened old men who control next to nothing, and guard it jealously. On quiet days, they sit around talking about how much better things were before all of that dad-blasted “inter-web” hoo-ha that they keep hearing about, back in the good old days when the Red Guards – the original viral marketers – were as cool as Li Yuchun is today and when the only movies they had were from Albania, Russia, and North Korea.
They’re scared, frail old men, and when they hear from their grandkids that there’s now technology allowing people to disseminate video content without restrictions, they get chest pains. Never mind that the content in question is mostly Korean soap operas and desperately unhip college kids trying to beatbox – it’s scary for the guys at SARFT, so scary that they go out and start hitting the bottle, which is how you get ridiculous regulations like this to begin with.

8 Comments

  1. Feng 37 wrote:

    Just a matter of time until SARFT gets the 恶 搞’d out of them.

    Wednesday, August 16, 2006 at 9:27 pm | Permalink
  2. For some reason, that reminds me of some of my old classmates’ parents promising to “beat the black off [them].”

    Thursday, August 17, 2006 at 1:00 am | Permalink
  3. Hello_World wrote:

    They are old, scared, but they are on the power anyway. They don’t care about video on the Internet, they just want to show their existence, something like “Hey, I’m here, you should know and respect me”

    Thursday, August 17, 2006 at 8:21 am | Permalink
  4. lumberjack wrote:

    China has a long history of censureship. With the wide use of internet, this system naturally extends from printed material to video stream online. If possible, a sensor might be installed in everyone’s brain to detect any thought contrary to the spirit of the Party — and the government might even charge you for this fantastic gadget.

    Thursday, August 17, 2006 at 12:07 pm | Permalink
  5. Matt wrote:

    I can think of a good anagram for SARFT–perhaps it’s more fitting…

    Sunday, August 20, 2006 at 8:53 am | Permalink
  6. Yeah, but yknow what happens sometimes to embarassing out-of-date power structures? Some youngblood, full of nationalism and vinegar, comes in armed with a fistful of web programmers and his finger on (or at least within a mile of) the zeitgeist. The structure is there, there’s political power and leverage in it – all that’s needed is a changing of the guard, since the current drivers can’t even see the road with their glasses on.

    SARFT’s clueless semi-impotency might only spur the creation of some hotshot young propagandists. After all, those old SFARTs are gonna die off soon…

    Tuesday, August 22, 2006 at 1:14 pm | Permalink
  7. jennifer wrote:

    just good to see you are alive

    Sunday, August 27, 2006 at 11:48 pm | Permalink
  8. Kelly wrote:

    Agree with #3. The country is so $#%$up no one in this generation knows what to do. I often think about Thomas Jefferson and his gang of farmers 200 some years ago only wish I could send a tiny bit of their spirit to China.
    BTW, I understand you’re homesick. I’m sure I’ll get that when I come to China in October for two long weeks.

    Thursday, August 31, 2006 at 5:20 am | Permalink

One Trackback/Pingback

  1. The Peking Duck on Monday, August 21, 2006 at 5:27 pm

    SARFT Senility…

    With their arteries popping, eyes bulging and limbs trembling, the antique paranoiacs who head SARFT (the useless and obsolete government body that’s trying, in effect, to banish youtube and all other forms of unapproved video from China’s Internet) …

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