Thu, Feb 10, 2005 - Page 2 News List

Radio station to target foreign community

TRANSFORMATION Radio Taiwan International, which formerly was used to broadcast government propaganda aimed at China, is to offer programs in five foreign languages

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

National radio station Radio Taiwan International (RTI) is poised to enter a new era on July 1 when it starts domestic broadcasting in five foreign languages to the nation's 500,000 foreign workers and residents.

Over the course of 77 years, RTI has transformed itself from a government propaganda radio station targeting China and the world, to a public service station serving both local and international communities alike.

While some might question the popularity of radio stations in a multimedia age, Cheryl Lai (賴秀如), president of RTI, seemed upbeat about the future of the airwaves industry.

"There are three English-language newspapers in Taiwan but their target audiences are either white-collar office workers or intellectuals," she said. "We're more concerned about the blue-collar audiences, especially foreign workers and spouses, who have a hard time understanding Mandarin and some of them cannot even afford computers or Internet access," she said.

Emergency use

Lai added that foreign-language radio programs also provide foreigners with access to instant and immediate information, which can be quite useful, especially when natural disasters hit.

"With the increasing number of international marriages, what we're doing now is broadcasting not only to foreigners working or living here but also to the future children of Taiwan," she said.

Established in 1928 in Nanking, China, under the name the Central Broadcasting System, RTI was relocated to Taiwan after the Nationalist Party lost the civil war to the Communists in 1949.

In January 1998, the station was restructured to become a non-profit organization, and its services were expanded.

Currently, it has nine branch stations scattered island-wide. Its broadcasting area covers central and southern Taiwan, China and the rest of the world.

It broadcasts daily in 18 languages, including Mandarin, Taiwanese, Hakka, Cantonese, Tibetan, Mongolian, English, German, French, Russian, Spanish, Arabic, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Thai, Indonesian and Burmese.

July start

From July 1, it will start broadcasting in five foreign languages aimed at local audiences nationwide and foreign communities, taking into account the increasing number of foreign workers and spouses. The five languages are English, Japanese, Indonesian, Vietnamese and Thai.

Statistics show that there were about 330,000 foreign spouses and 310,000 foreign workers in Taiwan as of December last year. Of the foreign husbands, Thais are the most numerous, accounting for 34 percent of the total, followed by Japanese, at 12 percent, and Americans at 11 percent. Vietnamese top the list of foreign brides with nearly 70 percent of the total, followed by Indonesians at 12 percent and Thais at 6 percent.

Unlike other countries' national radio broadcasters, such as the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) or Voice of America, which target both international and domestic audiences, Taiwan does not have a single national public radio station serving both the national audience and the international community.

So far, the only public radio stations targeting local audiences nationwide are the National Education Radio, Police Radio System and the Voice of Han Broadcasting Network.

As the government's airwave restructuring plan is due to be implemented on July 1, Voice of Han will move to another frequency to make room for RTI to broadcast 12 hours of foreign-language programs. The programs will be also be available online.

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