China's broadcasting and Internet regulators have told Internet video providers that they must prescreen all programs before making them available, tightening state censorship of increasingly popular online drama series and mini-movies.

The new rule was issued jointly by the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (SARFT) and the State Internet Information Office.

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China's broadcasting and Internet regulators have ordered web video providers to prescreen programs, tightening state censorship of increasingly popular online drama series and mini-movies. (Greg Baker/Associated Press)

SARFT said this week in a statement on its website that the rule is in response to the rapid growth in online video programs, some of which it said contain vulgar content, excessive violence or pornography. It said the rule would protect younger people and promote high-quality online programs.

China has a long-standing practice of censoring traditional television programs and films, and it bans access to several popular foreign websites, including the video-sharing site YouTube. The government relies on domestic web service providers to scrub the Internet of what Beijing considers to be offensive content.

The government statement said online video providers should bear responsibility for web programs and must prescreen content before it is posted, though it did not offer specific standards or mention penalties. SARFT said government regulators will ensure that Internet video providers implement the rule.

A woman working in the public relations office for Youku, China's most popular online video provider, said Wednesday the new decree had little impact on the company because Youku already has hundreds of prescreeners who examine all content uploaded to the site.

"Nothing with vulgar or violent materials will pass," said the woman, who did not give her name because she said she was not authorized to speak on the record. "Political speech? If it is anti-party and anti-society, it definitely will not pass. No website will allow such content."