Taiwan fades from the Shortwave Map – under Chinese Pressure?

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» Updates concerning this post , Feb 12, 2014

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The Voice of Pujiang (浦江之声) in Shanghai has abandoned shortwave on May 2, 2013, according to an email sent by the station’s Victor Qian quoted here. The station’s target area was Taiwan.

Radio Taiwan International QSL card, showing the shortwave broadcasting site in Tainan

Broadcasting to China and to the world: Radio Taiwan International Tainan Shortwave Broadcasting Site (RTI QSL card)

Apparently more controversially, shortwave broadcasts from Taiwan for Chinese audiences are also scrapped. The following is a Radio Free Asia‘s (RFA) article by  Lee Tung (李潼), on April 25, 2013, and it uses the term CBS (Central Broadcasting System) rather synonymously with that of Radio Taiwan International (RTI), the foreign-broadcasting section of CBS:

“Sound of Hope”, a privately-run radio station with Falun-Gong background, commissioned Taiwan’s Central Broadcasting System (CBS) with broadcasting its programs to mainland China. But under high-level adjustments of policies within CBS, it appears that in future, shortwave activities will be phased out.

具有法轮功背景的民营电台「希望之声」,从二零零四年起出资委託台湾中央广播电台向中国大陆播送。但最近却传出央广高层正进行政策调整,未来恐怕逐步取消短波播音业务。

During the years of the cold war last century, with financial and technical assistance from the U.S., CBS built a huge broadcasting network. The shortwave signals covered the entire mainland Chinese territory. These callsigns are probably no strangers to the older members of the mainland Chinese public who were used to listening to “CBS” and the “Voice of Free China”.

在上世纪冷战期间,台湾中央广播电台通过美国的经费和技术援助,建立了规模极为庞大的播音网络。短波信号能涵盖中国大陆全境。年纪稍长,习惯收听台湾广播的大陆民众,对于「中央广播电台,自由中国之声,在台湾发音」的这段台呼,想必都不陌生。

After the end of the cold war, CBS started carrying clients’ broadcasts on shortwave.  In 2004, “The Sound of Hope” started broadcasting through CBS. During the time of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in government, this cooperation rapidly rose from two hours a day to twenty hours daily. Sound of Hope became the biggest client of CBS.

随着冷战结束,央广开始为出资的客户代播短波节目。二零零四年「希望之声」开始通过央广向大陆播音。民进党执政时期,这项合作业务从每天两小时快速成长到二十小时,希望之声也成为央广最大客户。

But news has recently emerged that reforms of the CBS transmission site could soon end this cooperation. Sound of Hope president Zeng Yong went to Taiwan’s Legislative Yuan on Thursday [i. e. on April 25, apparently] to petition the DPP’s legislator Liu Jianguo.

但这项代播业务近来却传出可能随着央广重整发射台而结束。希望之声总裁曾勇星期四到了台湾立法院,向关注本案的民进党籍立法委员刘建国陈情。

In an interview with this station [i. e. Radio Free Asia], Zeng Yong explained the value of shortwave broadcasts to the Chinese public. He said that people in totalitarian countries were the most obvious listeners to shortwave broadcasts, because when they distrusted information provided by the government, they could only rely on shortwave broadcasts. June-4 was an excellent example for this. At that time [1989], the impression was that the entire country listened to the “Voice of America”.

曾勇接受本台访问时说明了短波广播对中国民众的价值。他说,短波广播先天存在的听众就是极权国家的人民,因为他们对政府提供的信息天然不信任,这时只能依赖短波广播。六四就是一个最好的例子,那时的印象甚至是「全中国都在听美国之音」。

Zeng Yong said that when the KMT returned to power [in Taiwan] in 2008, there was no way for Sound of Hope to increase their airtime further, and instead, they were asked to cut their airtime by half. Only mobilization of public opinion and great efforts narrowly kept up the status quo. But this year, an intentional division of branch transmitters and equipment was gradually phasing the shortwave broadcasts out. Once this point was reached, all broadcasts – those of CBS and its clients alike – would all come to an end.

曾勇说,二零零八年国民党重返执政后,央广代播希望之声的时段不仅无法再增加,零九年甚至被要求砍掉一半。经过发动舆论、极力争取才勉强保住。而今年,再传出央广高层有意藉着整併分台土地和设施,逐步取消短波播音。届时不管是自製或代播,一概停止。

The authority in charge of CBS is the ministry of culture. Minister of culture Lung Ying-tai explained the CBS policies on broadcasts to mainland China to the Legislative Yuan during question time on Thursday [again, this should be April 25]. She said that there was no intention to halt broadcasts to mainland China, and on the contrary, communicatons with mainland China should be strengthened.

央广的上级单位为文化部,部长龙应台周四在立法院备询时,说明了央广对中国大陆的播音政策。她说,对中国大陆的广播没有要喊停,反而是要加强和大陆的沟通。

But reporters continued to ask if the current amount of airtime and client airtime was or wasn’t being reduced. Lung Ying-tai replied that this issue was part of “technical issues”,  and therefore part of the planning carried out by CBS itself. The ministry of culture’s only concern was the policy, and the policy was that broadcasts to China should only be increased, not reduced.

但记者进一步追问,现有的短波广播和代播的时数会不会减少。龙应台回答,这部份属于「技术问题」由央广自行规划,文化部只管政策。而政府的政策是:对大陆广播只能增加不能减少。

Lung Ying-tai’s argument of only taking care of the policy and not asking for details can hardly put the minds at Sound of Hope at ease. Sound of Hope says that there was news that reducing Sound of Hope’s airtime was a request from Beijing, made in meetings between high-level CCP and KMT officials. There was evidence: during the frequency-changing period [i. e. usually every year, late in March and October], CBS had asked to abandon frequencies one by one, and every time, precisely those frequencies were taken by Beijing.

龙应台「只管政策,不问细节」的说法,让希望之声方面难以安心。他们表示有消息指出,缩减希望之声时段是来自北京当局通过国共两党的高层互访平台,向央广管理阶层提出的要求。证据是,在这一波变动中,央广一度要求先删减某个频道的时段,而这个频道,恰恰对正的就是北京。

Lung Ying-tai said that in her opinion, there was a lot of “blockage” of traditional broadcasting methods. CBS should therefore develop new media, as this would broaden contacts and reduce the effects of being blocked.

龙应台同时指出,她认为传统的传播方式,有很大的「被屏蔽」的问题。所以央广应该试着去开发新媒体,能让接触面更广,让被屏蔽的效果减低。

Zeng Yong disagrees. He says that the internet’s digital signals can be shut, while this is can’t be effectively done when it comes to shortwave. The penetration power of shortwave is very strong. The support for and protection of shortwave should be part of Taiwan’s own security policies.

对于龙应台认为传统的短波电台容易被屏蔽,曾勇表示了不同的看法。他说,以电台和互联网相比较,互联网使用的数字信号是可以关闭的。但短波是无法有效关闭的,它的渗透力极强。对于短波广播的支持和保护,应该是对台湾本身的安全维护政策的一部分。

Opinions on the importance of shortwave differ. There is no evidence that shutting the Voice of Pujiang’s shortwave transmissions down is in any way connected to the (apparent) Taiwanese moves, concerning shortwave. But it should be an educated guess that Sound of Hope has more listeners in China, than Voice of Pujiang ever had in Taiwan.

It is also obvious that Beijing takes Sound of Hope‘s (希望之声) broadcasts very serious. On most days, you would find a frequency where Sound of Hope can be listened to in Europe – but once in a while, the signals get completely drowned in Chinese music – a rather tuneful way of jamming. Example here:

You can hear the jamming station’s output rise after 35 seconds into the recording, and the “alternative” program, Chinese folk music known as “Firedrake” (火龙干扰) sets in after one minute. (Recorded in northern Germany in June, 2011.)

And while the short-range effects of jamming are often more limited than across long distances, Beijing appears to believe that jamming justifies quite a budget.

According to reports by the Epoch Times, reportedly a Falun-Gong-affiliated paper, Sound of Hope received a notice that dismantling of one of CBS / Radio Taiwan International’s shortwave transmitter sites, Huwei substation in Yunlin County, would begin ahead of schedule, on June 1. Sound of Hope broadcasts from there would therefore be discontinued at the end of May. Tianma substation (天馬台) in Tainan (台南) would be dismantled a few months later. Also according to the Epoch Times, it was RTI high-level executives (be it in addition to or instead of the high-level KMT members mentioned in the above RFA report) whose visit to mainland China was – supposedly – linked with the decision to phase out shortwave.

Radio Taiwan International (RTI, the foreign broadcasting section of CBS) usually uses relay transmitters in Britain and France for its broadcasts to Europe. However, once in a while – once a year or less -, European listeners get the opportunity to listen to broadcasts directly from Tainan, on 9955 kHz. RTI’s German service apparently told its listeners on a club gathering in Gaggenau-Ottenau in May this year that saving measures were due at RTI. Replying to a request from a listener in Hamburg that there would be another direct broadcast this year, one of the hosts told the audience in a mailbag show on Friday night that RTI’s German service might broadcast directly from Tainan later this year, as had frequently been done in previous years. However, this wasn’t yet certain, and if there should be another direct shortwave transmission from Taiwan this year, it would be the last time.

There was no mention of possible cross-strait influence on RTI’s use of shortwave.

In the same program, plans to scrap the relay broadcasts to Europe (and to rely on the internet in future) were also mentioned, however, those were portrayed as comparatively remote considerations.

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Related

» Resignations at RTI, Oct 3, 2008

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3 Responses to “Taiwan fades from the Shortwave Map – under Chinese Pressure?”

  1. Now I understand why I haven’t been able pick up Taiwan since September 2013

  2. Hi Christopher, did you listen to frequencies directly from Taiwan before September last year? Wikipedia says that shortwave broadcasts to North America were cut because WYFR, who used to relay their programs from Florida, had been closed. Frequencies are said to have been 5950 kHz and 9610 kHz.

    The news about political pressure having lead to the closures is – obviously – unconfirmed. The closures also fit into a global trend: even the Voice of Russia has drastically reduced its shortwave transmissions in recent years. And again in contrast to that trend, the Taipei Times suggests quotes a station manager as saying that

    It is an established policy that the Tian Ma Radio Station [the Tainan substation] will be relocated to Yunlin County’s Baojhong Township (褒忠),” he said, adding: “After the relocation to Yunlin, no changes will be made to our international radio broadcasts.”

    Which, again, raises the question why there should be no further annual direct broadcasts from Taiwan to Europe (in German, for example). After all, RTI’s German service said that there wouldn’t be any direct bcs to Europe in future. There will, however, be daily relay transmissions on shortwave from France, as usual.

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