Another snag has emerged, hindering New Tang Dynasty TV (NTDTV) from resuming its broadcast into China. Recently, the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG)—which broadcasts Voice of America and Radio Free Asia into Asia—announced that it will soon switch from Eutelsat to Asiasat as its satellite provider.
NTDTV, the only independent Chinese TV station that broadcasts uncensored information into China, had its signal abruptly cut by Eutelsat, a French satellite company, on June 17, 2008, seven weeks prior to the Beijing Olympic Games. Eutelsat stated that this was due to technical problems but a report from Reporters Without Boarders revealed that the broadcast termination came under continuous pressure from the Chinese communist regime . The report said that Eutelsat’s CEO deliberately turned off NTDTV’s transmission into China in order to please Beijing officials.
In 2005, Eutelsat abruptly announced that it sought to terminate its contract with NTDTV in an effort to earn more business from the Chinese communist regime. In an article by the Wall Street Journal, Eutelsat was found to have terminated its contract with NTDTV because the company aimed at obtaining Olympics broadcast rights. Eutelsat’s long-range plan involved establishing a temporary relationship with NTDTV, which they knew would upset the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Once Eutelsat broke its ties to NTDTV, they believed that the CCP would reward the company broadcast rights for the upcoming Olympic Games. In other words, Eutelsat intended to strategically use NTDTV to gain business from the Chinese authorities.
However, Eutelsat endured extensive criticism in the West for terminating its NTDTV contract. Many government officials from both the U.S. and Europe wrote and called Eutelsat urging continued service to NTDTV. An enormous public outcry over Eutelsat’s decision, forced the company to reconsider its decision. Reporters without Boarders and the International Federation of Journalists also initiated a series of activities to support NTDTV’s broadcast into China. Eventually, under enormous pressure from around the world, Eutelsat had to withdraw its original plan, and continued to broadcasting NTDTV from its W5 satellite.
At that time, the U.S. Congress requested that BBG put its Voice of America and Free Asia Radio broadcasts on the Eutelsat’s W5 as well. While the company was still interested in pursuing business from the CCP, they couldn’t afford to lose their precious U.S. market, and acceded to the request. The contract between BBG and Eutelsat became the only legal protection for NTDTV’s satellite broadcast into an otherwise state-controlled media environment in China. Except for NTDTV’s programming, all the TV stations, radio stations, newspapers, magazines, books and Internet content were either produced by or heavily monitored by the CCP. Any media outside this state-controlled system was terminated. Among 169 countries in the world, China ranked seventh in having the least press freedom.
According to informed sources, in the past few years the CCP has continuously harassed the BBG. Such pressure from the CCP, coupled with the BBG’s internal changes over the past year, have led to the BBG’s decision to cancel its contract with Eutelsat. As of the end of 2007, the BBG has transferred Voice of America and Radio Free Asia to Asiasat 3S, a satellite controlled by the Chinese communist regime. It was not until recently that BBG notified NTDTV of its decision to terminate the contract with Eutelsat.
Kelly Hong—the NTDTV spokesperson who helped convince the U.S. Congress to establish and maintain an independent media presence in China—stated that Eutelsat also sent out a notification immediately following the BBG decision. Since the BBG will terminate its contract with Eutelsat, Eutelsat will terminate its contract with NTDTV. The reorganization of the BBG effectively terminated the only free window of information into mainland China.
Because the BBG now uses the CCP-controlled Asiasat 3S, the Chinese regime can interfere with this signal at any time, terminating any program it desires. BBG originally used the Ku band (Kurtz-under band) on its W5 broadcast into China, allowing even relatively small satellite dishes to receive its signal, making it accessible to more viewers. On Asiasat, the BBG uses the C-Band television channel, requiring a much larger satellite dish—substantially reducing viewership and making it more easily detectible to Chinese Internet police.
Hong said many viewers from mainland China have already called and e-mailed NTDTV, hoping it could resume its broadcasting into China. As the BBG terminates its contract on July 31, she urges everyone to respond as quickly as possible. “We appreciate the support from Chinese people, and we hope that they can voice their concerns to the U.S. government and the BBG via phone calls, faxes and e-mails,” she said.