Podcasting hits the mainstream in the west, China, which is also experiencing an audio boom, is seeing restrictions tighten around shows as evidenced by new curbs from Apple.
This week, the U.S. tech giant has pulled a handful of Chinese-language podcasts from its Chinese Podcasts store, one of the few remaining channels for people in mainland China to find content immune from scrutiny by the country’s media regulators.
The crackdown seems to be taking an incremental pace so far. Three podcasters, including hosts of NickTalk and Two I.T. Uncles (两个iT大叔), confirmed with TechCrunch on Tuesday that their shows disappeared from Apple’s Chinese Podcasts app this week.
Several other noted shows, including Yitianshijie (一天世界), appear to remain unaffected while others, such as Suijiya (随机鸭), seem to have suffered from a partial blockade. That’s to say that individual episodes appear in search results, but the podcast homepages are inaccessible which makes it impossible for new subscribers to sign up.
In an email reply to Two I.T. Uncles reviewed by TechCrunch, Apple confirmed that the podcast is currently available in “all territories except China,” adding that “only shows from select partners are available in the Chinese Apple Podcasts store.”
Apple did not provide further details as to what it means by “select partners.”
The removals appear to be ill-timed, coinciding with the thirtieth anniversary of China’s Tiananmen Square crackdown, which falls on June 4th and has already led to tighter control on China’s online discouse.
That’s a big deal for Apple as people have long celebrated its Podcasts app as unhampered by Beijing’s censorship. The IPN, a variety of popular Chinese talk shows on different topics, has repeatedly urged listeners to choose international services like Apple Podcasts, Castro and Overcast over Himalaya FM, Lizhi FM and other local counterparts that are prone to Chinese reins.