The Chinese government has invited a group of domestic and foreign media companies to form a board to advise on how capital markets can help modernise the mainlands burgeoning media industry, according to the South China Morning Post.

The board, which will include Viacom chairman Sumner Redstone and the heads of mainland and Hong Kong media companies, will work closely with the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (SARFT), the Hong Kong paper reported.

"We want to allow private enterprises to enter the radio, movie and television production [sectors] in areas that are not forbidden by law", said senior media official Zhu Hong, who oversees policy at SARFT.

The comments were made during an all-day summit at the Diaoyutai State guesthouse a venue usually reserved for conferences with senior leaders which was attended by mainland officials and leading figures in the US and Hong Kong media industries. The private meeting was taken as a sign that the pace of media reform in China may be accelerating.

Participants included News Corp senior vice president Lucy Hood; Peter Wolf, the special adviser to Time Warner CEO Richard Parsons; HSBC Asia-Pacific CEO Michael Smith, and Jack So, chairman of Hong Kong telecom PCCW.

The formation of the board follows the introduction of new regulations, issued by SARFT, allowing foreign investors to hold stakes of up to 49% in mainland TV production ventures. Taking advantage of the new rules, Sony Pictures Television International (SPTI) has already announced the formation a joint venture with Hua Long Film Digital Production Co, a subsidiary of China Film Group, which will co-produce Chinese-language TV programming.

The joint venture, Huaso Film/Television Digital Production Co, was unveiled last week by SPTI president Michael Grindon and China Film chairman Yang Buting who described it as the first television and film co-production joint venture to be approved by SARFT and the Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM).

The Beijing-based company is developing several Chinese-language comedy and drama series as well as TV movies. Dandan Zhang, formerly director and substituting station chief at Sun TV in Hong Kong, has been appointed general manager.

Viacom announced a similar joint venture with Shanghai Media Group earlier this year focusing on childrens programming which was conditional on formal approval by SARFT and MOFCOM. The US media giant has also entered into a strategic partnership to make music and entertainment programmes with Beijing Television.

Meanwhile, film production companies have also been opened to overseas investment under a separate set of regulations. Warner Bros is the first US studio to launch a film production joint venture, teaming with China Film and the privately-owned Hengdian Group.

News Corp and Australias Seven Network are also understood to be exploring mainland partnerships.