Satellite television service providers with close Chinese ties and investments have been offering a free service in Taiwan in what appeared to be part of Beijing’s united front strategy and an attempt to culturally influence the nation, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lawmakers said yesterday.
Although Taiwan has not granted local landing rights to Chinese satellite TV channels, Taiwanese could watch the channels via illegal service providers, but “it’s another story when the provider is backed by Beijing and provides the service free of charge,” Legislator Lee Chun-yi (李俊俋) told a press conference.
Pacific Satellite International, a local subsidiary of a Hong Kong company, has been offering Great Wall Television — a satellite TV package featuring 11 Chinese channels, including China Television (CCTV), Beijing TV, Dragon TV of Shanghai, Hunan TV, Shenzhen TV and Xiamen TV — for free to residential buildings with more than 100 households, Lee said.
The Hong Kong company has close ties with CCTV and suspicious investments from Beijing, Lee said.
Lee called on the National Communications Commission to investigate because the provider appears to have violated both the Act Governing Relations between the People of the Taiwan Area and the Mainland Area (臺灣地區與大陸地區人民關係條例) and the Satellite Broadcasting Act (衛星廣播電視法).
The number of local subscribers was unknown, Chen said, but according to his office’s calculations, a NT$100 million (US$3.4 million) budget would secure 400,000 Taiwanese viewers, which means China could secure 4 million viewers for its TV programs for a budget of NT$1 billion.
An audio recording of a telephone call made to the subsidiary company was played at the press conference. It appeared that the service provider was aware that the service is illegal, because the person answering the phone assured the caller that subscribers would not be punished for purchasing the package.
“As far as I’m concerned, this is apparently a part of China’s ‘into the island, into households and into the brains [of Taiwanese]’ (入島，入戶，入腦) efforts,” Chen said, adding that the Great Wall package is offered free of charge in Asia, while it is a premium service in North America.
Chinese satellite TV channels have become a “must have” service in luxury hotels in Taiwan as the numbers of Chinese tourists have increased, Chen said, but this is the first time a service provider has tried to secure household viewers, which raises questions about the company’s motives.