Karaoke bars monitored for illegal music and pornography


MORE AND more of China’s most beloved institutions, karaoke parlours, are playing their part in the government crackdown on vulgarity and dissent as they are monitored by direct links that allow officials to spot illegal music and pornographic videos.

Nearly 180 karaoke bars in the city of Chongqing have installed the National Karaoke Content Management System, or “black box” as it is more popularly known, which monitors the playlist remotely and automatically calls the police if someone selects a vulgar tune or a banned song.

The system is also aimed at stopping piracy, as it logs unlicensed imports of music.

The system is up and running in hundreds of KTVs, as karaoke bars are known in China.

It is being provided for free by the government, although some critics have accused the government of trying to profit from the system by running advertising for state interests such as local lotteries.

The songs and music videos on karaoke bar playlists are usually downloaded from online sources, which makes them hard to monitor, despite the Great Firewall of China which blocks access to banned sites. Many webizens can find ways around the net nannies’ methods of blocking sites.

The banned songs contain obscenities or rallying calls for independence in Xinjiang or Tibet.

At least 10 songs containing what authorities consider vulgar words, including Nightmare, Even the Pig Smiles and Conquer the World, have been deleted in raids so far.

According to the Chongqing Evening News, a music video of Conquer the Worldpraised a government official in disguise, who wanted to take French women to Japan to film adult videos and urinate outside the entrance of the White House.

Karaoke is a hugely popular pastime in China, right across the social spectrum, and karaoke outlets range from expensive, luxury booths to smaller venues which are often fronts for brothels.

As part of a continuing campaign against smut, the culture ministry is monitoring 81,000 internet cafes to weed out “lewd, pornographic and violent content,” and it blocked access to banned websites more than 87 million times in 2009.