New Tang Dynasty Television Asia-Pacific (NTD-AP) on Monday lamented what it called a lack of progress in an ongoing dispute with Chunghwa Telecom, which on April 11 announced that it would not renew the station’s broadcasting license after it expires in August.
During an interdepartmental meeting on Tuesday last week attended by officials from the Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MOTC), the National Communications Commission (NCC) and representatives from NTD, Premier Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) said Chunghwa needed to protect Taiwan’s democratic -principles and to continue its satellite contract with NTD-AP.
In remarks seen as promising by the station, Wu said he wanted Chunghwa to give NTD-AP priority on a new satellite that will enter service in August and that if there really was insufficient bandwidth, as Chunghwa says, the company should rent another satellite with the same coverage as the current one and continue servicing NTD-AP.
In its announcement that it would not renew NTD-AP’s license after it expires on Aug. 9, -Chunghwa said the new ST-2 satellite, which it operates with Singapore Telecom Co (SingTel) and which was launched on May 20, did not have enough transponders and therefore provided insufficient bandwidth to continue broadcasting the NTD-AP signal.
NTD and media freedom organizations say that Chunghwa’s decision may have been the result of pressure from Beijing and have called for an investigation.
“The contradictions in the reason given by Chunghwa Telecom for not renewing the contract and the supposed limitations of the new satellite’s technical capacity suggest that the real reasons lie elsewhere,” Reporters Without Borders said in a press release on May 24.
“The similarities of this dispute and the dispute between NTD-AP’s parent station, NTD-TV, and the French satellite operator Eutelsat, make us fear the worst,” it said, in reference to the decision in June 2008 to suspend NTD’s use of -Eutelsat’s W5 satellite to broadcast to Asia, ostensibly as a result of pressure from Beijing.
The New York City-based NTD is known for its reportage that has been critical of the Chinese government.
A Singapore-based source told the Taipei Times on May 6 that although the ST-2 satellite had more transponders and greater bandwidth than the ST-1, which currently transmits the NTD-AP signal and is to be decommissioned in August, Chunghwa’s share in the satellite was smaller and therefore its bandwidth allocation was more limited.
Early last month the NCC announced it would look into the matter.
However, in a press release on Monday, NTD said the NCC had only conducted an “administrative check” and had yet to fully investigate the matter, adding that it also had yet to hear from Chunghwa on how it intended to resolve the impasse.
“At the end of the day, -Chunghwa still hasn’t offered any material to prove there is insufficient bandwidth and no explanation has been given to us by the NCC as to when they will conduct further investigation,” NTD-AP spokeswoman Theresa Chu (朱婉琪) told the Taipei Times when contacted for clarifications yesterday.
Asked for comment, NCC spokesperson Chen Jeng-chang (陳正倉) said the commission had so far only heard explanations from Chunghwa and had yet to thoroughly investigate whether the nation’s largest telecoms company was indeed short of bandwidth to provide quality service, as it said.
“The Executive Yuan has already intervened and Premier Wu has spoken on this matter,” Chen added. “Now it is up to Chunghwa and the MOTC to decide what they are going to do next.”
“It has yet to come to the point where the NCC has to step in,” Chen said. “We will see what Chunghwa’s decision is and handle the matter in accordance with the law.”
Chen said the NCC was only authorized by the law to conduct administrative checks and to determine whether NTD-AP was indeed treated unfairly.
In its statement, NTD also said the station had made it clear to Chunghwa during a meeting with company representatives on Thursday that broadcasts should continue on a state-controlled satellite service, as this would ensure governmental protection against disruptions, which would not be possible if a privately owned satellite were used.
The MOTC owns 35.41 percent of Chunghwa shares.
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