A senior Chinese governmentofficial has confirmed that China has halted new foreign investment in film and TVproduction companies.

The move overturns aregulation introduced in 2003 which allowed foreign companies to take stakes ofup to 49% in local production houses or Sino-foreign joint ventures.

'Our policy is totemporarily not approve the creation of new joint venture companies,' said ZhuHong, spokesperson of the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television(SARFT), in an interview with the FinancialTimes.

'People can jointly investin filming individual movies and individual television dramas, but we are notgoing to approve the creation of programme production companies.'

China has not approved any new foreign investment in production companiessince a rash of Sino-foreign production ventures were given the go-ahead in2004. But Zhu's comments mark the first time a senior official has gone onrecord saying that this is Chinese government policy. He didn't, however, saywhen the temporary halt might end.

The new decision marksfurther restrictions on foreign investment in China's film and TV industries. Warner BrothersInternational Cinemas (WBIC) recently decided to pull out of the China market after a trial that enabled foreign companies tohold stakes of up to 75% in cinemas in seven key cities was rescinded.

Joint ventures set upfollowing the introduction of the 2003 policy include Warner China Film HG,which was established by Warner Bros, China Film Group and the Hengdian Group;and Huaso Film and TV Digital Productions, a joint venture between SonyPictures Television International and Hualong Film Digital Production.