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UPDATED: 17:18, November 30, 2004
China loosens restrictions on foreign investment in film/TV industry
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China will allow foreign companies to invest in local television and film production companies, giving international media better access to the world's largest market.

The new regulations, jointly issued by the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (SARFT) and the Ministry of Commerce Sunday, are aimed at attracting more foreign investment, technology and expertise to promote China's broadcasting and film industry.

"After three years in the World Trade Organization, China is opening up more areas and loosening restrictions," said Zhu Hong, spokesperson with SARFT. "The television and film industry has taken the initiative to speed up its opening."

According to the new regulations, foreign companies can hold no more than 49 percent stakes in film and television production joint ventures.

Recently China has approved several joint venture companies engaged in film and television production.

China's first joint venture film production company, a joint venture by Time Warner, Beijing-based China Film Group, the country's biggest film producer, and Hengdian Group based in eastern China's Zhejiang province, was approved by SARFT in October.

Sony Pictures set up a film/television digital production company with China Film Group last Thursday, becoming the first Hollywood studio to do so.

According to Zhu, an animation production company part-owned by a Canadian company has also been approved by the administration.

"Foreign investors, with their advanced technology, management skills and creative programming concepts will help internationalize and upgrade the film and television industry," Zhu said.

Since 2001, China has approved six foreign satellite channels, including China Entertainment TV, Star TV, Phoenix TV and MTV, to broadcast programs in south China's Guangdong Province. There are now 31 foreign channels in China.

China imports 50 to 70 foreign films to distribute in Chinese cinemas each year and approximately 400 foreign films to broadcast on film channels. Joint venture companies with as much as 75 percent foreign capital are allowed to renovate or construct cinemas in China.

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