Reporters Without Borders hails today’s decision by Taiwanese TV satellite operator Chunghwa Telecom (中華電信) to continue broadcasting the privately-owned TV station New Tang Dynasty Asia Pacific (新唐人電視臺) when its new satellite takes over in August.
NTD-AP, whose signal is broadcast by Chunghwa Telecom’s current satellite, will be one of the TV stations carried by the new satellite, Chunghwa spokesman Chen Hui-yen said today. The company, in which the Taiwanese government has a majority share, had previously said it would be unable to continue broadcasting NTD-AP for “technical reasons.”
“For the time being, we are satisfied by the initial information that we have received,” Reporters Without Borders said. “The Taiwanese government has shown that it was able to intervene effectively in defence of the right to receive and import news and information. We will nonetheless wait for an accord to be signed before determining that this problem has been resolved.”
Chunghwa Telecom originally claimed on 11 April that it would not be able to carry NTD-AP’s signal on its new satellite for lack of bandwidth. Reporters Without Borders wrote to the Taiwanese government on 20 May asking it to reverse this decision.
NTD-AP’s programmes, which reach not only Taiwan but only mainland China, are critical of China’s ruling Communist Party and its persecution of the Falun Gong religious movement and dissidents in Tibet.
Taiwanese TV satellite operator refuses to continue relaying New Tang Dynasty signal
Reporters Without Borders has asked the Taiwanese authorities to explain why the country’s leading telecom company and TV satellite operator, Chunghwa Telecom (中華電信), is refusing to continue relaying New Tang Dynasty Asia Pacific (NTD-AP, 新唐人電視臺), a TV station that broadcasts programmes in Mandarin, mainly to Taiwan but also to mainland China.
The press freedom organization has written to Prime Minister Wu Den-yih expressing its concern that Chunghwa Telecom is discriminating against NTD-AP.
In an 11 April letter, Chunghwa Telecom told NTD-AP that it would not be able to renew their relay contract when it expires on 9 August because of “insufficient bandwidth” on its new satellite, ST-2, which is about to replace the existing one, ST-1.
“The contradictions in the reasons given by Chunghwa Telecom for not renewing the contract and the supposed limitations of the new satellite’s technical capacity suggest that the real reasons lie elsewhere,” Reporters Without Borders said. “The similarities of this dispute and the dispute between NTD-AP’s parent station, NTD-TV, and the French satellite operator Eutelsat, make us fear the worst.
“In the latter case, it was established that the Chinese authorities were involved and had pressured Eutelsat to stopping relaying NTD-TV, which they have repeatedly criticized. If it turns out that the same has happened with NTD-AP, the credibility of the Taiwanese government, which has a controlling share of Chunghwa Telecom, will be badly damaged.”
Ever since its creation in August 2007 NTD-TV, which claims to have 3.7 million subscribers in Taiwan, has broadcast programmes that are very different from those carried by the official Chinese media. In particular, it has programmes about human rights, repression in Tibet and harassment of religious groups in China such as Falun Gong and Christian churches. Eutelsat stopped relaying its signal in 2008.
Taiwan is ranked 48th out of 178 countries in the 2010 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.
After Sylvia Feng was ousted as president of Taiwan’s Public Television Service (PTS) last October, Reporters Without Borders reminded the government of its undertakings to respect the state-owned media’s independence.
See another Eutelsat case: http://en.rsf.org/georgia-another-case-of-political-25-02-2010,36538.html