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Beijing jilts foreign publishers as it caps lifestyle magazines

China has placed a moratorium on new foreign magazines on topics other than science and technology, dealing a blow to international media companies looking to tap the nation's booming advertising market.

One casualty of the policy, adopted by China's top publishing regulator, is the Chinese edition of the rock and youth-culture magazine Rolling Stone. The magazine had published its first edition last month, but the General Administration of Press and Publication said it will forbid it from publishing again.

China has imposed curbs on investors before and then eased them or overlooked exceptions. But this rule is a big setback for publishers of lifestyle magazines, which had been one area in which foreign media could expand even as Beijing cracked down on television broadcasts. "From now on, based on the GAPP policy, we might adjust to where it is possible to have approval," said Victor Visot, chief executive for China, Southeast Asia and Australia at Hachette Filipacchi Media, which licenses seven titles in China.

Titles already approved can continue publishing normally, said a person familiar with the policy, which was confirmed by several officials of GAPP.

The policy has been in place for about a year but was never published. China doesn't grant foreign companies licenses to publish magazines or newspapers; instead, it allows "copyright cooperation" deals between state-owned publishers and foreign partners. In these, an existing government-owned magazine essentially rents its license to a foreign partner.

While there has been no official statement from the central government on the rules, they may be part of an effort to protect the local publishing industry and limit the burgeoning number of lifestyle titles.

Since about a year ago, the internal, unpublished GAPP rules have limited the kinds of publications that can receive central-government approval for licensing a title from a foreign publisher, a person close to the matter said. "All nonscience magazines and newspapers are not allowed for now," said a GAPP official in Beijing.

In September, after the new policy was in place, Advance Publications Inc.'s Vogue magazine launched a Chinese edition in partnership with state-owned publisher China Pictorial. Jonathan Newhouse, chairman of Advance's Condé Nast International, said Vogue received final approval at the end of 2004 and he wasn't aware of a moratorium on new, foreign-owned titles.

Sports Illustrated, published by Time Warner Inc., said in March that it would publish a sports magazine in China beginning this year. It said it has finalized the partnership and was set to start the government-approval process. A spokesman said it was optimistic the new title would be approved.

Rolling Stone -- published in China by state-owned China Record Corp. and One Media Group of Hong Kong -- didn't apply for GAPP approval, said officials at GAPP's national and Shanghai offices. The magazine "won't exist anymore," said Chen Li, an official at the Shanghai office.

--Matthew Karnitschnig contributed to this article.
Write to Geoffrey A. Fowler at geoffrey.fowler@wsj.com

Date posted: April 7, 2006 Last modified: May 23, 2018 Total views: 13