In a bureaucratic statement that does not go into detail, the Chinese broadcasting regulator (NRTA-National Radio and Television Administration) has decreed the closure of the BBC World News satellite channel on 12 February 2021. This is despite the fact that the television channel cannot be seen by most Chinese, because in China it can only be viewed in international hotels and some diplomatic compounds. The British public broadcaster condemned the decision and stated on its website that the Chinese government had criticised the reports aired on the coronavirus and the persecution of the Uighur ethnic minorities. London’s response was not long in coming and was symmetrical: Ofcom (the British regulator) revoked the licence of the state broadcaster China Global Television Network (CGTN), which will no longer be able to broadcast its programmes in the UK. Separately, Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK) has aligned itself with the Chinese decision, stating that it will stop repeating BBC World Service programming in the region. This is despite the fact that the former British colony must retain certain rights and freedoms, including freedom of the press, until 2047, as part of a transfer agreement between China and Great Britain. More details can be read in the BBC News article available here.
The Chinese regulator’s press release
This is a translation of the statement published on 12 February 2021 on the NRTA National Radio and Television Administration website: “After investigation, the content of BBC World News’ China-related reports seriously violated the relevant provisions of the Regulations on the Administration of Radio and Television and the Measures for the Administration of the Landing of Overseas Satellite Television Channels, violated the requirement that news should be truthful and impartial, harmed China’s national interests and undermined China’s national unity. The State Administration of Radio and Television does not allow BBC World News to continue to operate in China, and will not accept its application to operate in the new year”.
The PBC (Pakistan Broadcasting Corporation) has asked the government to make it compulsory for cars to be equipped with digital receivers in the next five-year plan for the automobile industry. For some time now, public radio and television have been broadcasting using the DRM digital standard in the AM and FM bands. DRM (Digital Radio Mondiale), unlike DAB (which uses VHF channels in band III), is a digital broadcasting system applicable to all frequencies, from the HF bands (LW, MW, SW) to VHF (bands I, II, the FM band, and band III). And it foresees investments to complete the digital migration in the next five to seven years, to improve audio quality (claimed to be equal to that of a CD) and energy efficiency.
In Cambodia, about 250,000 children of school age are not educated. While universal access to primary school has increased year on year, the same is not true for ethnic minorities. So, when schools were closed due to the pandemic, the NGO Aide et Action Internationalequipped children with portable battery-operated radios to receive educational courses, and trained them how to use them. And to allow even those who do not have electricity at home to do their homework while following the lessons in the evening, the programmes were also placed in morning time slots. Details in the Globearticle.
The Indian army has opened a community broadcasting station in Anantnag, capital of the district of the same name in the federal state of Jammu and Kashmir. It operates on 90.8 MHz and is aimed at the population, with the intention of sending peace messages to young people to prevent them from joining Islamic independence groups. The region is at the centre of tensions between India (which controls two thirds of it) and Pakistan, but China also occupies a small portion of the territory. After Radio Raabta a second station will be opened in the Shopian district. More details in the ABP Live article.
The Japanese public broadcaster reduces the offer of radio and TV channels. Three satellite TV channels (BS1, BS Premium and BS4K) will be merged into one channel, and consideration is being given to closing down BS8K. With regard to radio, two medium wave channel should become one. The operation will reduce expenses by 120 billion yen (1.34 billion dollars). The broadcaster has not stated the timing of the closures, but the operation could be part of the three-year plan starting in 2021. NHK in 2019 increased revenues by 10% and is criticized by commercial stations because it collects not only the tax on television sets, but in addition generates revenues from advertising. Details in the Nikkei Asian Review article
The hard line taken by President Rodrigo Duderte has the upper hand. Parliament has refused to renew ABS-CBN’s broadcasting licence, that was due to last for another 25 years. The first problems began in March 2020 (we spoke about this here). The reasons for the dispute were unfavourable news coverage of the president and not broadcasting election commercials. Radio and TV frequencies have been turned off since May 5th, 2020, while awaiting a decision (we spoke about this here). The multimedia group that owns 16 radio stations and employs 11,000 people) has appealed.
‘The radio saved my life. By listening to doctors being interviewed on the radio, I discovered that I had Covid-19 symptoms and managed to be treated in time and recover’. This is the opening statement in the Asian Review’s report on the role played by the Indian community radio stations, which are often the only means available for millions of people to access information in the most remote rural communities. During the pandemic the usual programmes speaking about agricultural techniques were substituted by explanations of how to put social distancing into effect and how to recognise Covid-19 symptoms. Together with the government authorities, they also helped to coordinate the distribution of food and medicines. This was an enormous job considering that there are only 276 community radio stations in the whole country. The government’s intention was to see an increase to 4000 broadcasters, which is a number equal to the commercial stations, but the main obstacle to this is the cost of equipment, which is very high for a community (starting from INR ₹ 1.9 million, which is more than US $ 25.000), as explained in detail in this article.
President Duterte had promised to make life difficult for the ‘unwelcome’ radio/television group, although later he seemed to have changed track (which we spoke about in one of our recent articles). The multimedia group, which has 16 radio stations and 11,000 employees, hoped to renew its franchise temporarily, but the NTC opposed it. The National Communications Commission (NTC) is the authority that regulates the media sector. Hence, since Tuesday transmission is only continuing on the web and pay television channels, whilst waiting for an extension to the end of June 2022.
In order to increase the number of hospital beds, the Government of Sri Lanka has converted the buildings left by the Voice of America in Iranawila, located on the western coast of the island, 70 km north of the capital Colombo. The VOA, the American international broadcaster, after having relocated their equipment to Kuwait and to Greenville (North Carolina), returned the land back to the Sri Lankan State in 2017. The original intention to develop the site as a tourist resort had been shelved due to protests by local residents. In the interim period before developing the area, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa appointed the army commander to use the buildings for Covid-19 patients in March 2020. The new hospital can take in fifty patients and was completed at the beginning of April 2020.
25 years of propaganda
The ex relay station of the Voice of America spans an area of 1.6 km² and includes four large buildings with seven high power transmitters: four 500kW transmitters and three 250 kW transmitters, that currently broadcast programmes of Radio Free Asia. RFA was set up by the American Congress in Washington DC with the aim to transmit news and information to listeners in Asian countries ‘where complete news was not available, accurate or timely’. In 2014, RFA transmitted in 47 languages, including a large number of local dialects, to about 236.6 million listeners all over the world.