Sina Weibo, the Chinese social media platform that counts 340 million monthly users, has been abruptly banned from showing video or live streaming services.
Sina Weibo had emerged as a rival to television networks, as the Chinese population shifts its media consumption to video, entertainment and news delivered via smart phone.
Staff members at a booth for Chinese microblogging website Sina Weibo at a conference in Beijing. Three popular Chinese internet services, including Sina Weibo, have been ordered to stop streaming video after censors complained they provided improper content Photo: AP
The Melbourne Cup and Australian Open were among the Australian sporting events that struck live broadcast deals with Sina Weibo in 2016.
The social medial platform is also regularly used by Australian tourism marketers.
But Sina Weibo was among three companies named on Thursday as having broken the rules that require online video and audio services to be licensed.
The State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television said in a statement on its website that Sina Weibo, iFeng (the online service of Hong Kong television station Phoenix) and ACFUN had provided content on political and social issues that “advocated negative speech”.
They have been asked to undertake “comprehensive rectification and stop providing video”.
It has not specified how long the ban, designed to “create a cleaner cyberspace”, will last.
It is unclear whether all video shown on Sina Weibo would be affected by the ban, as some users uploading content, such as state media, are individually licensed.
Shanghai’s China Business News reported personal videos are not covered by the ban, but current affairs, news and documentaries are.
The Victorian Racing Club struck a deal with Sina Weibo last year to broadcast Channel Seven’s feed of the Melbourne Cup all day to promote the event to an estimated 20 million active daily Chinese users.
Tennis Australia also has a broadcast deal with Sina Weibo for the Australian Open.
Weibo posted net revenues of US$655.8million ($868.8 million) in 2016, up 37 per cent, largely because of a surge in live streaming advertising.
Regulation of Chinese media is tightening ahead of a key meeting of the Chinese Communist Party in November, held every five years.
Weibo is listed on the US technology exchange, the Nasdaq, where its shares fell 6 per cent on the news, lowering its market capitalisation to US$15.8 billion.
By Kirsty Needham
Sydney Morning Herald