After months of square-offs between a European satellite company and an
independent television channel attempting to restore its broadcast of uncensored
news to China, a letter from the U.S Committee on Foreign Affairs weighed in on
the fight for information freedom.
members of the United States Congress, we are writing to respectfully request
that Eutelsat restore New Tang Dynasty Television (NTDTV)'s signal into China as
soon as possible," said a letter addressed last week by Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen
(R-FL) and 64 other members of U.S. Congress in Washington D.C. to the European
satellite provider Eutelsat.
uncensored broadcasts were received by an estimated 30-40 million satellite
dishes inside China, providing news and information unfiltered by the Chinese
Communist Party (CCP)'s Propaganda Department. But seven weeks before the
beginning of the Olympic Games the independent satellite transmissions were
Eutelsat attributed the abrupt
end of the NTDTV transmissions in China to technical problems; however a press
freedom watchdog group Reporters Without Borders investigative report said that
was not true.
A Eutelsat representative
in Beijing, who thought he spoke to a Chinese Propaganda Department official,
said in a recorded conversation to an interlocutor from Reporters Without
"It was our company's CEO in
France who decided to stop NTDTV's signal. We could have turned off any of the
transponders. It was because we got repeated complaints and reminders from the
Chinese government. Two years ago, the State Administration of Radio, Film and
Television kept saying the same thing over and over: ‘Stop that TV station
before we begin to talk.'"
transponders also allowed U.S. government-sponsored channels, including Voice of
America (VOA) and Radio Free Asia (RFA), to broadcast into China, while also
allowing independent channels such as NTDTV to be freely received by tens of
millions of private satellite dishes across China.
But after the NTDTV signal was brought to a halt due to the
alleged technical problem, the other channels renting the same satellite
transponder continued their broadcasts, according to NTDTV.
Transponders are units within a satellite
that can be rented instead of purchasing an entire satellite which would cost at
least $200 million without the launching cost. In order to reach those in China
with satellite dishes, NTDTV is now seeking to rent two satellite transponders
in an effort they call "Freedom Satellite to China."
The recent letter from members of Congress says Eutelsat's
actions suggest that the discontinuation of NTDTV was "a premeditated and
politically-motivated decision" to expand business with Beijing.
China's Satellite Monopoly
NTDTV, however, has encountered similar problems with other
satellite providers who broadcast into Asia, as providers often face
intimidation and threats from Chinese authorities.
"We know that it only takes about six satellite companies to cover the entire
world," said NTDTV spokesperson Carrie Hung.
"Chinese state-run television station CCTV is on 33 satellites
around the world. So, obviously the communist authorities in China are using
this to monopolize the satellite industry."
During a recent Eutelsat shareholders meeting in Caen, France,
the issue with independent news channel NTDTV was brought to the forefront of
discussion once again, and the vice president of Eutelsat, Jean-Paul Brillaud,
attempted to back up the company's position by saying that "NTDTV misunderstood
... however we can't bring back the satellite from outer space to show you that
it [the broadcast suspension] is due to technical problems."
But Hung disagrees with Eutelsat's position
that the problem originates from a technical problem.
"Many Western satellite companies have caved into pressure from
Beijing, and because of short-term business incentives," she said.
Meanwhile, protesters representing the Falun
Gong spiritual practice, Friends of Tibet, Christians and other sympathizers
gathered at the European Commission in Brussels a few weeks ago to demand
freedom of press in China.
the milk poisoning scandal, protesters said that Eutelsat is in part responsible
for the inhumane suffering of many innocent children and their parents because
the company suspended the open dialog that NTDTV had exemplified, which is
perceived as a threat to the rule of communist authorities.
"We support NTDTV in their attempt to resume
their broadcast in China," said Inge Herman, president of Belgium Friends of
Authorities in China have
reportedly held a tight grip on the press, and have done that at all cost,
including regularly intimidating and arresting journalists for their efforts to
accurately report events. Officials and their cronies have been spying on
internet users and illegally wiretapping phone conversations.
China continues to be the world's leading
jailer of journalists, a dishonor the communist country has held for nine
"NTDTV's mission is to
bring the free flow of information to China," said Hung.