Probe launched in lease denial for TV station

By Shelley Shan  /  Staff Reporter

Thu, May 05, 2011 - Page 3

The National Communications Commission yesterday said it would investigate whether the nation’s largest telecoms operator decided not to renew the lease for a satellite service to New Tang Dynasty Television (新唐人電視台, NTDTV) for political reasons.

NTDTV was founded by members of Falun Gong, which has been banned by the Chinese government.

NTDTV said in a statement that it has been leasing Chunghwa Telecom’s (CHT) ST-1 satellite to air programs from overseas. The contract expires on Aug. 9 and NTDTV is obligated to apply to renew the lease three months prior to the contract expiring.

CHT refused to renew the contract on the grounds that it will start using a new satellite, ST-2, which it said does not have enough bandwidth to provide quality service because the new satellite will have fewer transponders.

“However, based on CHT’s public information, ST-2 is a joint venture between Taiwan and Singapore. It was said to have better quality, wider coverage and more transponders compared with the ST-1. This obviously contradicts the reasons the company gave to deny the renewal,” NTDTV said in a statement.

NTDTV alleges the decision was made to please Beijing because Chunghwa is expanding its market in China.

In response, Chunghwa said ST-2 has fewer transponders than ST-1, which in turn decreases the available bandwidth. As a result of the decreased bandwidth, the telecoms company decided not to renew the contract with NTDTV, which is about to expire. It denied that the decision was politically motivated.

The communications commission said it will interview both parties and determine if Chunghwa indeed abused its status as a dominate market player and discriminated against certain clients.

Meanwhile, National Communications Commission Chairperson Su Herng (蘇蘅) was criticized by the lawmakers serving on the legislature’s Finance Committee for the commission’s passive handling of what they said was “fabricated news” produced by SET-TV.

Pressed by the lawmakers, Su promised a public explanation after it completes the investigation within two weeks.

SET-TV reported that a “job seeker” who President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) helped secure a job for at the Din Tai Fong restaurant during a visit to a Council of Labor Affairs job fair on Sunday, was in fact already an employee of Din Tai Fong.

The restaurant said it asked one of its employees to pose as a job seeker at the request of a television reporter.