A major Spanish-language radio station in Mexico—with enough wattage to be heard in large swathes across the border in Southern California—was recently purchased by an entity with ties to a pro-Beijing television network, raising concerns that the station could soon beam the Chinese regime’s propaganda into the United States and Mexico.
According to public FCC (Federal Communications Commission) filings, the Tijuana-based AM radio station XEWW 690 was purchased by a New York investment firm, H&H Group, in mid-July.
“The applicant proposes to provide a full range of Mandarin Chinese language programming,” according to the filing, “including music, entertainment, weather reports, local (Los Angeles) traffic reports, and local Chinese community news.”
Since XEWW is a Mexican radio station, the purchase doesn’t need the FCC’s approval. However, the FCC must approve the transfer of transmission rights from the station’s previous owner, GLR Services, to its new owner.
According to a coverage map by Radio Locator, XEWW’s potential audience includes much of Southern California. There is a large Chinese population in the hubs of Los Angeles and San Diego.
A look into H&H Group’s background reveals ties to Phoenix TV, a Hong Kong-based broadcaster that is owned by a former Chinese military officer and has close ties to Beijing officials.
Sarah Cook, a China expert at human-rights group Freedom House, told U.S. Congress in May 2017 testimony that Phoenix TV was “an example of a Chinese propaganda outlet not directly owned by the Beijing government.” China’s state broadcaster, CCTV, has a 10-percent stake in Phoenix.
H&H’s majority stake—97 percent, to be exact—is held by Vivian Huo, a Beijing native and naturalized U.S. citizen. On the company’s website, Jackie Pang is listed as a senior adviser. She is, according to her LinkedIn page, the producer and host of a financial news program on Phoenix TV.
In addition, in a section of its FCC filings asking where programs will originate, the listed address, “3810 Durbin Street, Irwindale, CA, 91706,” is the site of Phoenix TV’s U.S. office.
When the Washington Free Beacon contacted Huo to ask about H&H’s ties with Phoenix TV, she responded: “We have a rental office in Phoenix building. That’s it.”
Phoenix won’t be involved in producing programming for the radio station, Huo told the Washington Free Beacon.
The newspaper also contacted Pang, who said she wasn’t involved in the radio deal. However, she didn’t respond when asked if she is still employed by Phoenix.
A recruiting advertisement placed by Phoenix TV’s U.S. branch on WeChat, the popular social-media platform, seeks “program producers, narrators, hosts, and ad sales managers” for “AM 690, Phoenix U Radio.”
Local radio stations in California aren’t convinced about H&H’s denials. On Aug. 8, Chinese Sound of Oriental and West Heritage, which broadcasts Chinese-language programming in the area near Walnut, California, through the FM radio station KQEV-LP, filed a petition with the FCC to deny approval for the transfer of transmission rights. It stated that XEWW’s strong signals could compete with KQEV’s programming, resulting in “significant loss of audience and donations.” In addition, the transfer “might allow the Chinese government to provide its own propaganda programming to air on the station.”
Winston Xia, president of Sound of Oriental and West Heritage, said XEWW’s connections to Phoenix TV suggest that the Chinese regime will soon be able to encroach on freedom of speech on U.S. airwaves.
“Through using an American-registered company, it is importing many [propaganda],” he said.
The U.S. Justice Department is now investigating the XEWW deal after learning about its possible connections to Phoenix TV, the Washington Free Beacon reported, citing government sources.
The U.S. government is stepping up efforts to counter foreign influence campaigns. U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.)—who earlier this year introduced a bill to require Chinese-regime-funded Confucius Institutes to register as foreign agents with government authorities—is planning a bill to require all media directed or owned by China’s state entities to register as foreign agents.