Taiwan satellite carrier agrees to renew independent TV station’s contract
Posted by Author on July 1, 2011
Without fuss or ceremony representatives of New Tang Dynasty Asia Pacific and Taiwan’s Chunghwa Telecom (CHT) inked a new contract on June 27, assuring that NTD AP will continue broadcasting via satellite to Asia, including mainland China. Backers of the station say the new deal closes one chapter on the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) ongoing attempts to cut off NTD AP’s influence on the Chinese people.
The contract signing ended a controversy that began in early April when CHT abruptly informed NTD AP it would not renew the station’s contract to broadcast on CHT’s satellite—a refusal that NTD AP characterized as illegal under Taiwan telecommunications law. NTD, the global network to which NTD AP belongs, is a media partner of The Epoch Times.
Before CHT would relent, Taiwan’s premier, the head of its Legislature, and the leaders of both political parties spoke out supporting NTD AP, along with U.S. congressmen, a vice president of the European Parliament, and international human rights and media watchdog groups.
Theresa Chu, spokesperson for NTD AP, said in an e-mail that a “massive, grass-roots call from all walks of life in Taiwan helped move the executive and legislature to support NTD AP’s contract renewal.” Ms. Chu cited “thousands of letters” sent from Taiwanese citizens to the offices of the president, the premier, and legislators around the island.
Taiwan’s people may have felt that the battle to renew NTD AP’s contract was not only about that independent TV station’s rights, but also about their own rights.
Chuang Feng-chia, deputy editor-in-chief of the Taiwan-based Central News Agency, was quoted by the Falun Gong (also known as Falun Dafa) website Clearwisdom.net as saying that if CHT did not renew NTD AP’s contract, that refusal would have a chilling effect on the media, which would try not to cover negative news on China or news related to Falun Gong. According to Clearwisdom, Chuang stressed that the possibility of not renewing NTD AP’s contract was a crisis for all the media and people in Taiwan.
Although the Taiwan government holds a controlling interest in CHT and governmental leaders had backed NTD AP’s demand for a new contract, the company resisted pressure to make a deal for weeks.
CHT tried to frame its decision as an issue of technological capability. It insisted to the end that its refusal was simply due to a lack of bandwidth on its new satellite, which goes into service on Aug. 9.
NTD AP and many of its backers said CHT’s refusal had nothing to do with bandwidth and everything to do with the wishes of the CCP.
A recent viewer of NTD’s call-in show Focus Talk, showed why the CCP has focused so strongly on stopping the station’s broadcasts.
The caller said, “”If NTD TV can broadcast freely into China, the CCP will be out of power.”
The format of Focus Talk is for viewers, including viewers from mainland China, to call live to the station and discuss their concerns with an expert panel.
“People in China have no place to express themselves,” said the show’s host, Anna Chang. “As an independent media we deeply look at all the information and its background and explain it to people—this is what we do.”
Viewers from inside China tell NTD they love what it is doing.
Another recent caller to Focus Talk, said, “I thought I knew a lot about China, but after watching NTD I realized I did not really know China. Now NTD is the source for me to know what is going on in China.”
A viewer with the surname Zhang e-mailed NTD from the mainland to say, “I have finally heard a different voice. I now want my brain back from its having been washed.”
Someone with the pen name “common person from Shanghai,” e-mailed, “I write to convey my highest respects to the station’s staff. You are not buying rope and being lassoed by the communists.”
Seeking to Close ‘Little Ears’
NTD AP’s Chu sees the satellite contract as only one step in an ongoing battle, as the CCP continually seeks to knock the station off the air.
She emphasizes the need to be cautious, “We really need to be careful to watch out for any possible measure taken by the CCP to block NTD’s broadcast.”
The CCP will no doubt continue its ground game: it will seek to track down and remove “little ears”—satellite receivers approximately 120 cm. (47 inches) wide used in China specifically to receive NTD AP.
According to articles on Clearwisdom, Falun Gong practitioners often take the lead in installing these dishes for acquaintances—doing so for cost—so that NTD’s reporting can be heard by a wider audience. NTD reports regularly on the persecution of Falun Gong.
Illegal satellite dishes of all types—not just the little ears—are very popular in China and are widely available. An article in the Global Times—a spinoff of the mouthpiece People’s Daily—begins “Private satellite dishes are illegal in China—so why are they as common as bird cages on Beijing apartment balconies?”
Nonetheless, the CCP tries to shut down the dishes in the hopes of keeping NTD out of people’s living rooms.
A report for 2008 from the Office of Administration for Industry and Commerce said the office had uncovered 272 illegal online retailers, 342 illegal retailers, 4,089 sets of satellite receiving equipment, 7,376 receiver boxes, and 11,312 sets of antenna, satellite dishes, and accessories.
The office said that it “has made a positive contribution in order to prevent an overseas, anti-Chinese government … [organization from] using a satellite broadcast as a propaganda media.”
A People’s Daily article speaks of how the regime in the first half of 2008 “confiscated 56,000 sets of illegal satellite equipment, also discovered and dismantled 11,000 illegal ‘little ears,’ and disallowed nearly 2,000 illegal retail outlets.”
The article complains, “illegal sales activities of satellite receiving equipment in the country have been very active, and overseas hostile forces have been using this opportunity.”
To what degree these campaigns may have slowed the growth of NTD’s audience in China is not clear. Chang of Focus Talk, says that a well-known human rights lawyer in Shanghai reports that he watches NTD on the Internet, and “everyone” knows how to do so.
Chang says NTD regularly receives long e-mails from people in China begging the station to tell their stories of being persecuted, or of being mistreated by local officials. They believe that if NTD broadcasts their story, the regime will be limited in what it can do to them.
“They know that NTD has an effect,” Chang said. “People understand how important it is for us to tell the true stories inside China and not to censor ourselves.”
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