BEIJING, Aug. 29 (Xinhua) -- China's top legislature on Monday reviewed a draft film law featuring clauses that will ensure people working in the film industry maintain professional ethics.
The bill was submitted for a second reading to the bimonthly session of the National People's Congress (NPC) Standing Committee, which runs from Monday to Saturday. The initial reading of China's draft film law was in October 2015.
As of mid August, China's box office raked in over 30 billion yuan (about 4.49 billion U.S. dollars), leading to wide speculation that the annual ticket sales of the country, now the world's second largest film market, could go on to surpass North America's as early as 2017.
Observers have long been calling for regulations to address problems exposed in the past year, including box office fraud and piracy, as the Chinese movie industry saw explosive development.
"If lawmakers pass the draft law, more specified rules formulated on this basis will likely be in place, which will be crucial to the long-term prosperity of Chinese film industry," said Shi Chuan, vice president of Shanghai Film Association.
According to the new draft, people working in the film industry should strive for "excellence in both professional skills and moral integrity," and build a positive public image.
The past few years have seen a string of high-profile arrests of film celebrities involved in drug abuse and prostitution.
In 2014, the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television (SAPPRFT) banned screenings involving anybody who had engaged in criminal activity.
According to a SAPPRFT statement released Friday, the media watchdog is establishing a professional ethics committee, aiming to guide organizations and people in the radio, film and media circles to practice core socialist values.
Works featuring "tainted artists" will be ineligible for awards, the document added.
"The newly-added provision stressing the self-discipline of people in the movie business will be a stimulus for the better development of the industry," said lawyer Zhang Jie.
BOX OFFICE FRAUD
The new draft further addresses box office fraud, adding a clause providing that film distribution companies and cinemas should not fabricate movie ticket sales or engage in improper methods.
Those involved in illegal activities will be liable for administrative punishments, including fines up to 500,000 yuan (75,000 U.S. dollars), business suspensions, and outright bans, it said.
In March, China's film market watchdog suspended the license of a distributor that committed fraud by inflating box office figures for domestic movie "Ip Man 3."
"If fraud cannot be contained, the ultimate victim will be the quality and reputation of our films," said Shi.
Shi and other industry insiders lauded the revised draft, as it specifies bogus transactions and fabricating sales as "improper," and involves film distributors as targets in regulation.
The revisions add clarity to what is illegal in terms of box office sales, which will make management easier, said Shi.
CUTTING RED TAPE
The new draft cancels the need for government approvals to shoot films, instead adding a stipulation that film authorities should issue certification or permits for prospective films at the script or abstract stage.
It is a move in line with the Communist Party of China's efforts to streamline administration and delegating power to lower levels, as well as an effective measure to safeguard the country's cultural security, said the NPC Law Committee in a report to lawmakers.
Easing government management of the film market will help vitalize the industry, said Fan Zhou, professor with Communication University of China.
Against the backdrop of simplifying procedures for film making, in the first six months of this year, 209 prospective movies have been reported to local authorities in Shanghai, including 52 in the final stages of production. The total number of films produced in 2015 was 44, according to Hu Jinjun, head of Shanghai media authorities.
MORE ON THE TABLE
The revisions add clarity regarding domestic movie screenings, stating that cinemas should properly arrange screenings and time slots of films made by domestic organizations, and domestic films should take up at least two thirds of total movie run time.
It states that films shall not contain content inciting terrorism and extremism and that all films shall be reviewed by at least three experts designated by the government.
If films contain material that "might cause psychological or physical discomfort" to viewers including minors, warnings should be given to viewers, the draft said.
The new draft also specifies that citizens, corporations and other organizations can provide film processing and post-production services for foreign movies, with an exception for those with the content that could "harm national dignity and interest of China, cause social instability, or hurt the national feeling."
Under the revised draft, subsidies should be given to non-profit film screenings in rural areas.
Chinese education and film authorities should recommend movies that are beneficial for the development of minors and initiate plans for students in compulsory education to watch such films for free, it says.