content and entertainment, e-commerce and new retail, highlight, regulation

On Wednesday, China’s media regulators released a new regulation to tighten scrutiny on livestream hosts’ behaviors. 

Why it matters: The rules require online streamers to adhere to a set of similar standards applied to the country’s tightly regulated traditional media hosts, a sign of further tightening the fast-growing and lucrative industry. 

  • Livestreaming e-commerce and entertainment have become part of Chinese people’s online shopping routine. Recently, education companies New Oriental have been able to utilize livestreaming to make a major comeback after China’s new rules on private tutoring cut off the bulk of its income.

Details: The new rules are jointly released by China’s National Radio and Television Administration and the Ministry of Culture and Tourism. It consists of 18 guidelines for livestream hosts.

  • The guidelines emphasized that livestream hosts must uphold correct political values and social values, create and promote more “positive” stories and maintain a “wholesome” taste. In addition, it advised hosts to self-regulate and avoid content that only focuses on viewing traffics, has morbid aesthetics, caters to fandom culture, or promotes money worship. 
  • Livestream hosts in professional fields like law, medical health, education, and finance must obtain relevant qualifications and approvals from the streaming platform. Tencent’s WeChat told the Chinese media outlet The Paper (in Chinese) late Wednesday that it will draft punishment measures for people who disobey these new rules.
  • The rules also mention that streaming platforms should take responsibility for their implementation, giving positive encouragement to rule-followers and punishing those who break the rules. Users who severely violate the new rules will be put on a blacklist and will receive a permanent streaming ban.
  • The rules also apply to virtual hosts and the human vocalists behind virtual hosts.

Context: Since earlier last year, China has been pushing to further regulate the livestream industry. In late last year, several top livestream hosts stopped their streams due to inappropriate or illegal behavior.

  • One of the country’s top e-commerce streamers, Viya, was banned for tax evasion in 2021 and was fined RMB 1.3 billion ($270 million). Before she was banned, her livestreaming generated RMB 8.3 billion in sales on the first day of the Singles’ Day shopping holiday in 2021.
  • China’s 315 Gala this year, an annual event highlighting consumer rights abuses, spotlighted fraudulent promotions and scams in the livestream industry.

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