Reporters Without Borders calls on Giuliano Berretta, the CEO of the European satellite company Eutelsat, to quickly reverse its decision to suspend independent Chinese-language broadcaster NTDTV’s use of Eutelsat’s W5 satellite to broadcast to Asia.
Eutelsat claims it was forced to suspend NTDTV (New Tang Dynasty Television) on 16 June because of a technical problem but a recorded conversation with an employee of Eutelsat show it was a premeditated, politically-motivated decision violating the free flow of information and the convention under which Eutelsat operates.
“The real reason for the decision to suppress NTDTV exposes how Eutelsat operates in China,” the press freedom organisation said. “The company’s credibility is at stake and we urge its shareholders to intervene as quickly as possible so that NTDTV can resume broadcasting on this satellite. If that is not done, none of the TV companies that are Eutelsat clients will ever be sure they could not also be arbitrarily disconnected one day because of their content.”
Reporters Without Borders added: “NTDTV’s broadcasts irked the Chinese government because, thanks to this satellite, they could be freely received in tens of millions of Chinese homes. Their suspension just a few weeks ahead of the Olympic Games looks like a favour provided by Eutelsat with the aim of obtaining new deals. Eutelsat tried to drop NTDTV once before, in 2005, but an international campaign forced it to sign a new long term contract.”
In a recorded conversation on 23 June with an interlocutor the employee thought was a Chinese Propaganda Department official, a Eutelsat representative in Beijing said:
“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 reminder 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.’
Reporters Without Borders is posting a transcript of this conversation on its website (www.rsf.org) and it has an audio recording that is available to the media.
A New York-based TV station with links to the Falun Gong spiritual movement, NTDTV began broadcasting in Chinese four years ago. Its programmes are very different from the content on China’s state TV stations. There is a great deal of coverage of human rights issues, including the repression in Tibet and of religious groups such as Falungong and the underground Christian churches.
The day after it stopped transmitting NTDTV, Eutelsat issued a statement saying the W5 satellite has suffered serious technical problems that had forced the company to reduce the number of transponders and stop broadcasting several TV stations.
Eutelsat and Thales, the French company that made the satellite, are doing more and more business in China. It was Thales that manufactured Zhongxing-9, the satellite that was put in orbit last month to guarantee good coverage of the Olympic Games. Eutelsat has signed a contract with China to use its Long March rocket to launch Eutelsat satellites. The Wall Street Journal wrote in April: “Eutelsat for years has been trying to find a way to penetrate the Chinese market, and launch contracts are widely seen as one way to help reach that goal.”
As a company headquartered in France, Eutelsat is nonetheless obliged to respect the principles of equality of access, pluralism and non-discrimination enshrined in article 3 of a convention governing the operations of satellite companies.
Ever since NTDTV was launched in February 2002, the Chinese government has been trying to get its broadcasts suppressed by pressuring satellite operators and governments.
欧洲公司Eutelsat 总裁Giuliano Berretta决定暂时停播卫星W5面向亚洲的华语电视台NTDTV，记者无国界希望Giuliano Berretta撤销该决定。Eutelsat谎称由于技术问题而停播该台，但从与该公司一位负责人谈话录音上可以看出，这一举动是有计划的政治决定。该决定违反了Eutelsat公约第三条，阻碍了新闻的自由流通。记者无国界称，“停播NTDTV电视台的真正原因已经十分明显，不过是为了在中国市场的长远利益。这一决定关系到Eutelsat公司的诚信度，我们希望公司的投资商能够尽快行动，让NTDTV华语电视台重新回到卫星电视中来。否则，依此逻辑，Eutelsat公司的任何电视台客户都有可能因为播放的内容而被强行停播。” 另外，记者无国界对此事评论，“在距奥运会开幕几周的时间里，能够被一千多万中国家庭接收的NTDTV电视台惹恼了中国政府，Eutelsat为了中国市场而停播该电视台。2005年，Eutelsat就曾试图停播NTDTV电视台，但由于遭到国际社会的一致反对而作罢。” 2008年6月23日，一位Eutelsat在北京的负责人和一名冒名在中国宣传部门工作的记者的对话录音揭示了停播真相，“停播是我们法国公司总裁命令，当然，我们也可以继续播放NTDTV的节目。不过，中国政府方面早就表明态度。两年前，中国广播电影电视总局就坚持说，‘在开始一切谈判之前，先停掉这个台（NTDTV）。’” 记者无国界在网站上 HYPERLINK "http://www.rsf.org" www.rsf.org 列出了该对话的全部内容，并欢迎媒体对该对话录音。 2008年6月16日，和法轮功关系密切的NTDTV电视台被Eutelsat停播。四年来，NTDTV播出了大量与中国官方电视台论调截然不同的节目，其中包括许多有关人权的问题，尤其是在西藏的镇压活动，对法轮功、基督教等宗教活动的巨大阻力。在6月17日的一片声明中，Eutelsat称W5卫星遇到很大的技术故障，不得不停止播放某些电视台的节目。” Eutelsat和Thales公司是W5卫星的制造商，在中国有很大的商业利益。Thales制造的“中兴9号”卫星为了奥运会的顺利转播，在六月份进入轨道。Eutelsat与中国政府签订合约，在该公司发射卫星时使用“长征”火箭。正如《华尔街日报》写的那样，“Eutelsat几年来绞尽脑汁打入中国市场，该合约的签订是走向成功的一条途径。” 不过，Eutelsat要遵守各个电视台公平使用卫星的条约，受法国法律约束的Eutelsat公司公约第三条明确标明了这一条款。自从2002年NTDTV电视台正式开播以来，中国政府已为该台向几家卫星电视公司施加压力。