China Jams Voice of America, Other Foreign Radio Broadcasters, Group Says

2012-04 BIZ China Illustration H IPAD

The dominance of western brands in China has long been a sore spot for the country's leaders. Chinese authorities have begun to take greater notice -- and umbrage.

The Association for International Broadcasting condemns what it says is the country's concerted interference with English-language radio programs.

China has been interfering with English-language radio programs, extending its “Great Firewall” -- as Western observers often call the country's comprehensive online censorship system -- into the radio field, according to the Association for International Broadcasting.

The group issued a statement Wednesday saying that broadcasts from the BBC World Service, which recently criticized China for such jamming, Radio Australia and Voice of America are being deliberately interfered with by the jamming of frequencies, making it difficult or impossible to listen to them. Shows affected include news, current affairs, science and entertainment programming.

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AIB said research carried out by the individual broadcasters, as well as independent groups, suggests the jamming is coming from within mainland China. The BBC, Radio Free Asia and Voice of America’s broadcasts in Mandarin have been consistently blocked for many years in China, but this is the first time that English-language services have seen such concerted interference, it said.

“AIB condemns this latest interference to the broadcasts of the BBC, ABC Radio Australia and Voice of America,” said Simon Spanswick, CEO of the association. “Free access to information is a universal human right, and this interference is preventing audiences based within China to hear news from outside the country."

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He added: "It comes at a time when China’s own international broadcasters -- on radio and television -- are expanding rapidly around the world. They do not suffer from attempts by other nations to silence them. AIB calls on China to cease its jamming activities.”

The AIB’s condemnation follows the BBC’s announcement in February that its English-language World Service broadcasts were being interfered with in Asia. The BBC said it had observed "extensive and coordinated efforts" at jamming its channels, which "are indicative of a well-resourced country such as China."

A reporter from the Guardian recently asked a Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman about the BBC’s allegations at a press briefing in Beijing. "I don't understand this situation," she reportedly said, telling the journalists present to contact "relevant departments" for further information, without specifying which departments might be involved or how to reach them.

The AIB said it is lodging official protests with the Chinese Foreign Ministry and its missions in London and Washington D.C. No official comment was available from China.