Taiwan fades from the Shortwave Map – under Chinese Pressure?

» Updates concerning this post , Feb 12, 2014

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.


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”.


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.


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.


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”.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.



» Resignations at RTI, Oct 3, 2008


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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