Reporters Without Borders has written to Giuliano Berretta, the head of the French satellite company Eutelsat, urging him to resume transmission of the Chinese-language television station NTDTV on his W5 satellite and thereby respect the principles of equal access, pluralism and non-discrimination enshrined in article 3 of the convention that governs Eutelsat’s operations.
Eutelsat’s W5 satellite stopped carrying the Asia broadcasts of NTDTV and three Mandarin radio stations, including Sound of Hope, after reporting a technical incident on 16 June.
The Chinese government has often criticised NTDTV’s programmes about the human rights situation in China and there are grounds for suspecting that Eutelsat’s suspension of its broadcasts is not due solely to a technical problem.
In addition to the statements of a Eutelsat employee in China confirming that the Chinese government had been pressuring the company, Reporters Without Borders has obtained new information indicating that Eutelsat would be technically capable of restoring NTDTV’s broadcasts to Asia today, thereby ending a crisis that has damaged Eutelsat’s credibility.
“One of your clients, the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), which handles the broadcasts of Radio Free Asia and Voice of America, has just withdrawn from W5,” the letter says. “This therefore leaves sufficient capacity on one of the transponders, C2, for restoring NTDTV. In fact, in July, BBG was using your satellite to broadcast five TV stations and 12 radio stations to Asia.”
A BBG spokesperson has confirmed to Reporters Without Borders that none of their broadcasts have been carried by this Eutelsat satellite since 1 August. So how, when room has been freed up on one of W5’s transponders, can Eutelsat continue to insist that it is impossible to resume broadcasting of NTDTV?
Eutelsat claims that four of the satellite’s transponders, including C4 and C6, had to be turned off to allow the other 20 to keep going. But Reporters Without Borders has learned that the C6 transponder has been used again for transmission, although reports about the 16 June incident by Eutelsat-Thales Alenia Space (the satellite’s constructor) said this would not be possible.
NTDTV representatives always get the same answer from Eutelsat: “We cannot resume broadcasting for technical reasons. Contact our competitors.” A Eutelsat release on 11 July said that, because of the 16 June incident, it would not be possible to get the four transponders running again.
Why is Eutelsat refusing to broadcast NTDTV and three radio stations although some of the transponders that were turned off in June have again been used?
“With the Olympic Games taking place in China, it is vital that Chinese TV viewers should have the possibility of accessing independent news and information,” the letter adds. “We therefore urge you now to take the necessary measures so that NTDTV broadcasts are again transmitted by the W5 satellite. The many protests by the station’s viewers demonstrate its utility and importance", concluded Reporters Without Borders in its letter addressed to Giuliano Berretta.