Business Maverick

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China considers ways to curb youths’ ‘excessive’ video use

China considers ways to curb youths’ ‘excessive’ video use
A child records video of a giant panda. (Photo: Yuichi Yamazaki/AFP/Getty Images)

Chinese media regulators are studying measures to curb addiction among youths to short videos, the format popularised by tech giants from ByteDance to Tencent.

The National Radio and Television Administration held a meeting on 22 February to consider ways to tighten oversight of the short video industry. The powerful agency called for the sector’s “healthy development” and improvements in content quality, without elaborating or naming companies. The key was to prevent minors from spending too much time on them, it said in a brief statement.

It’s unclear whether regulators will eventually move ahead with concrete measures, but Beijing has in past years prioritised measures to wean China’s youth off excessive gaming and other pursuits it considers harmful or undesirable. In 2021, the government abruptly limited gaming time for children to just three hours a week, a landmark regulation that hammered the bottom lines of companies including Tencent and NetEase.

Video streaming platform Kuaishou Technology dived as much as 4.2% in early on Tuesday trading in Hong Kong, while rival Bilibili fell a maximum of 3.7%. Tencent, which gets most of its revenue from gaming, climbed about 2.4% at its peak.

Short videos — the bite-sized segments of a few seconds that characterise services such as TikTok and its Chinese cousin Douyin — have in recent years exploded in popularity globally, particularly among teens. Their proliferation made ByteDance the world’s most valuable startup, spurred incumbent giants such as Meta and Tencent to adopt the format, and minted an entire economy of influencers, advertisers and merchants.

What Bloomberg Intelligence says:

“The Chinese State Administration of Radio, Film and Television’s concerns about minors becoming addicted to short videos could herald new regulations that restrict viewing time, potentially impacting earnings at the likes of Kuaishou and, to a lesser extent, Bilibili and Tencent. Unlisted ByteDance, the owner of Douyin and TikTok, could also suffer from the move.” – Robert Lea and Tiffany Tam, analysts 

Beijing has since 2020 clamped down on other industries that gained widespread followings and amassed valuable personal data, including e-commerce, ride-hailing and online education. The government has consistently tried to curb the rising power of China’s internet titans, though in recent months Xi Jinping’s administration sent strong signals they were loosening the reins, in part because of the overriding objective of reviving the world’s No 2 economy. BM/DM

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  • Rory Short says:

    In the interests of individual health and well being society does need to keep a watchful eye on new technologies. Perhaps if that had been the case in the past the liquor industry as it now exists wouldn’t have been allowed to come into existence.

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