31 May 2004


New York-based television station faces continued harassment from Beijing authorities

Incident details

television station(s)


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(RSF/IFEX) - Authorities in Beijing have been harassing the New York-based television station New Tang Dynasty TV (NTDTV) since its launch in February 2002, in an attempt to maintain their grip on Chinese-language electronic media. In a recent development, New Skies Satellites (NSS) ended its contract with the station following prolonged financial and political pressure from Beijing. NTDTV has now resumed broadcasting to China and Asia via Eutelsat's W-5 satellite.

RSF has denounced the continued harassment of the television station, saying, "China has proven itself ready to defend, at all costs, its monopoly of the Chinese-language electronic media, resorting to the most appalling methods, including threats, political and financial pressure and blackmail. It is unfortunate that some Western telecommunication companies cave in to Chinese pressure and suspend broadcasts of stations that challenge the Chinese Communist Party monopoly of the airwaves." The organisation fears Beijing will maintain its pressure on competitors, particularly Eutelsat, the Conseil supérieur de l'audiovisuel (CSA, France's broadcast regulator) and the French government, following resumption of NTDTV broadcasts to China.

On 1 July 2003, the Netherlands-based satellite operator NSS began broadcasting the station on open signal to Asia. But only three days after the start of broadcasts, NSS encrypted the signal, preventing Chinese satellite dish owners from receiving the broadcasts. The decision was taken after threats of financial reprisal against the company were made to NSS representatives in Beijing. In January 2004, pressure was intensified to ensure that NTDTV was completely excluded from NSS-6 Asia satellite transmission. On 1 May 2004, NSS broke its contract with the station.

Beijing accuses NTDTV of belonging to the banned Falun Gong movement, considered a "diabolical cult" by Chinese authorities. While many of the station's volunteers are indeed followers of Falun Gong, NTDTV offers a wide range of programming, including news programmes that provide a sharp contrast to CCTV (state television) propaganda.

NTDTV told RSF that other satellite companies had refused to broadcast or host the station on their satellites for fear of reprisals from Chinese authorities. In early 2004, Philippine satellite operator Mabuhay cancelled plans to transmit a special Chinese New Year broadcast after receiving threats from the Chinese embassy in Manila. PanAmSat, another operator that carries CCTV on many of its satellite platforms worldwide, has also refused to broadcast NTDTV.

Through CCTV, the official voice of Beijing is broadcast on 30 different satellite packages worldwide, whereas six would be enough to ensure coverage of 99 percent of the world's population. This massive presence allows the government to blackmail operators. In 2002, CCTV left the operator Taipei International because it decided to accept NTDTV as one if its broadcasters. The state channel signed a new contract after the removal of NTDTV. In February 2003, the US operator Atlanta ADTH backed out of an agreement in principle to carry NTDTV, for fear of losing contracts with Chinese stations.

As of 1 May 2004, NTDTV is once again accessible to Chinese satellite dish owners, thanks to W-5's satellite transmission through the Paris-based Eutelsat.

NTDTV claims over 200 million satellite viewers worldwide. In April 2003, the CSA approved its licence, but has faced pressure from Chinese authorities both before and since the decision.

Eutelsat is obliged by French law to comply with the principle of equality of access, pluralism and non-discrimination, as set out under Article 3 of the convention regulating satellite transmissions.

In addition to pressuring telecommunications operators, the Chinese authorities have, on several occasions, prevented NTDTV journalists from carrying out their work. Its reporters have been denied access to public events and press conferences in the United States and Europe under pressure from Chinese officials.


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