“The BBC has warned that China poses a “direct threat” to its global reach by paying incentives to local broadcast companies to prioritise its state-funded CCTV service over other international networks.
Peter Horrocks, the Director of the BBC’s World Service Group, told The Independent that the BBC’s distribution network was in danger from the hugely-ambitious CCTV and its deep financial resources.
“What the Chinese do is to pay local radio and TV stations to take their content,” he said in an interview with The Independent. “If you are a poor TV station in Tanzania and someone from China comes along and says ‘Will you take this content in Swahili?’ then you are quite likely to take it – so it’s a real threat to the future of the World Service’s content.”
As shortwave radio has become less widely used, the BBC has become increasingly dependent on local distribution partners for its radio and television output in large parts of the developing world. Around 40 per cent of the BBC’s global content is distributed through such intermediaries. “Locally distributed content is a very significant proportion of our overall audience,” said Horrocks. The BBC either seeks payment for its programming or provides it for free.”
The website BBG Watch recently posted a guest commentary from an anonymous VOA reporter regarding the loss of VOA Weishi TV during the Hong Kong protests. Here is an excerpt from BBG Watch:
“On Monday, September 29, the loyal viewers of Voice of America (VOA) “Weishi,” the VOA Mandarin TV program, were surprised to see their TV screen turned into a blue graphic during some hours when the original program previously aired was repeated. In the place of the professionally produced VOA TV broadcast, audiences received radio signals from Radio Free Asia (RFA).
Audience surveys, although underestimating the viewership because many Chinese are reluctant to share sensitive and potentially dangerous information with strangers, show that the popularity of the 2-year-old VOA “Weishi” is growing by leaps and bounds in China. Some of its segments, including “History’s Mysteries,” “Pro&Con” and “Issues and Opinions,” already also attract many millions of viewers on YouTube. The management’s decision to take away some of the repeat hours from the “Weishi” programs will be devastating to VOA’s Mandarin broadcasting. Meanwhile, it will not help RFA, since very few people listen to radio via TV. If they do, there are existing channels leased by the International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB) to broadcast radio programs via satellite to China and Tibet. IBB reports to the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), the federal agency and the bipartisan Board in charge of all U.S. taxpayer-supported media for audiences abroad.”
Have you noticed less Firedrake broadcasts lately? I certainly have. My buddy David pointed this out to me last week and since then I haven’t heard Firedrake even once. I have, however, heard the more aggressive and noisy Chinese jamming techniques.
Perhaps it’s just a “watched pot never boils” situation? I’m not sure; some SWLs on the hard-core DX reflector have also noticed a lack of Firedrake across the bands.
Have you heard Firedrake lately? Please comment with loggings.
Yesterday, I had two reminders of how important shortwave radio is in China.
The first was this incredible recording shared by David Goren–an unidentified Radio Beijing announcer who departed from the script and commented on the massacre of protestors in Tiananmen Square in 1989. It’s believed this announcer is still imprisoned:
The second was an article that a journalist friend had posted. It’s simply a list of search terms that the Chinese government blocked on Sina Weibo as of June 4th. Of course, the list contains words you would assume would be included, like: 1989, 89, vigils, and memorial ceremony. But it also includes words like: Internet block, sensitive word, and inappropriate for the public. Think of how many sites and posts this blocked (certainly ours!). Of course, there are many more terms on the list–check out this article on China Digital Times for more information.
So why is shortwave radio still important in China? It’s impossible to block those search terms on radio.