China cracks down on set-top boxes and unauthorized TV apps

Beijing has banned a proportion of set-top boxes and streaming apps, while ramping up censorship on other online TV services, in an attempt to more closely regulate the market.

As much as 70 percent of set-top boxes available in China, along with 81 online streaming apps that run on them, were banned by the Chinese authority last Sunday after Beijing passed an order for more stringent censorship.

According to industry website Tech.china.com, the Tmall set-top box and its counterparts that use the Yun OS operating system -- both developed by the Hangzhou-based ecommerce giant Alibaba -- were forced to upgrade in response to a "No. 229" document.

The unpublished document was co-issued in September by the Supreme People's Court; the Supreme People's Procuratorate; the Ministry of Public Security; and China's State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (SARFT), in an effort to exert more control over a market deemed under-regulated.

Since June 2014, SARFT has been trying to tighten restrictions on the use of set-top boxes and streaming apps, and "No. 229" finally provided SARFT the law enforcement and public security muscle it needed.

Some sources claimed the real goal of the most recent crackdown is for SARFT to promote its own TVOS system, which is under the authority's complete surveillance and is subject to more stringent censorship schemes.

A report published by Jiemian.com claimed sales of set-top devices are declining, with 498,000 units sold during September 2015, down 16.7 percent from the previous month.