If you have not heard by now, the TV show South Park has been banned in China following the airing of the episode titled Band in China. Through the course of the episode, attention is brought to bear by the writers on how Hollywood has tailored content to avoid upsetting Chinese censors. Given that the value of Chinese markets for media products continue to expand, its understandable that there is a lot of pressure to continue access for big media companies. In the next few years, internet advertising revenues in China are expected to reach $109.2 billion and cinema revenues to be $15.5 billion. All this money means when Chinese censors speak, companies around the world have a bit of pressure on them to listen.
Instead of caving to pressure, however, the creators of South Park released a apology tweet that reads: “Like the NBA, we welcome the Chinese censors into our homes and our hearts. We too love money more than freedom and democracy. Xi doesn’t look just like Winnie the Pooh at all. Tune into our 300th episode this Wednesday at 10! Long live the Great Communist Party of China! May this autumn’s sorghum harvest be bountiful! We good now China?” Needless to say, the show remains banned. Video clips and online discussions of the show no longer can be found online, and even the country’s most popular social network Weibo no longer has any posts even mentioning the show.
Other companies that have come under fire from China have not always reacted this way. Most recently the N.B.A. has tried to prevent blowback after a tweet (since deleted) by Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey posted in favor of protestors in Hong Kong. Though the N.B.A commissioner Adam Silver defended Morey’s freedom of speech, both the Houston Rockets and The N.B.A. itself distanced themselves from the comment in favor of Hong Kong, with Morey eventually tweeting an apology. Other recent events where companies have caved to Chineses pressure include:
- American, Delta, and United Airlines deleted references to Taiwan as its own country.
- Blizzard Entertainment suspended Chung Ng Wai, a Hearthstone player from Hong Kong, when he voiced support for Hong Kong Protests.
- A number of movie studios have worked to ensure their scripts are acceptable to Chinese censors.
Time will tell how practices of dealing with Chinese censorship continue to develop. One thing is for sure, however, so long as there is a lot of money to be made in Chinese markets, pressure from the Chinese government will continue.