China’s State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (SARFT) and State Administration of Industry and Commerce (SAIC) passed regulations effective August 1, 2006, stating that any TV or radio commercials for medical products must state the names of the manufacturing and distributing companies, as well as the government approval number given to those products. Commercials promoting weight loss products, breast enlargement, and other beauty treatments have been banned outright.
One month after passing the legislation, the SARFT has sent out 406 warnings. After the warnings, only 147 of those have complied so far. 224 of all the warnings were for television stations defying the ban on commercials promoting weight loss and breast enlargement products. Many stations are reluctant to comply, since advertising makes up the bulk of their revenues. If a television station fails to adhere to the new regulation after three warnings, all advertising will be banned on the station and officials will face penalties.
Some cities, such as Shanghai, have taken extra care in screening medical advertisements. Shanghai’s municipal government requires sellers to submit their medical advertisements for review prior to broadcasting. If they are approved, the municipal public health department then submits the advertisement to the TV or radio station on the day of broadcast.
Newspapers, magazines, and websites, which the new regulations do not cover, have pushed for a greater share of advertising in their wake, but the SAIC is monitoring these sources more stringently for illegal ads. The SAIC is considering increasing advertising regulations for these media as well.