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Evidence Shows Eutelsat Shutdown of NTDTV Was Premeditated and Politically Motivated
NTDTV Calls on International Support to Re-Open the Only Free Satellite Window to China
Statement by NTDTV
7/16/2008

We at NTDTV are shocked and outraged to learn that a recorded conversation by a Eutelsat employee shows the “power anomaly” – which Eutelsat has claimed caused the unavoidable shutdown of our satellite broadcasts to China – really “was a premeditated, politically-motivated decision violating the free flow of information and the convention under which Eutelsat operates.”

On June 16, 2008, Mr. Giuliano Berretta, chairman and CEO of Eutelsat Communications, turned off New Tang Dynasty Television’s (NTDTV) broadcast to China via its W5 satellite. By this act, millions of Chinese people lost their access to the only uncensored Chinese-language channel that they have relied on since 2004 as the free alternative to the Communist state-controlled TV. The shut-down of NTDTV is a goal the Beijing authorities have sought long and hard to achieve, and Mr. Berretta delivered it by the flip of a Eutelsat switch.

Eutelsat claimed the shutdown was caused by a “power subsystem anomaly”. After more than two weeks of investigation Eutelsat informed NTDTV that it could no longer provide the service. Yet despite many inquiries there was still no plausible explanation of what happened, why NTDTV had to be turned off, and why Eutelsat could not resume NTDTV’s transmission.

Now evidence revealed by RSF has shown that it was Mr. Berretta’s deliberate decision to curry favor with Beijing and to satisfy Beijing’s long standing demand of taking NTDTV down as a precondition for large business deals. The evidence has also shown that Mr. Berretta chose whether and when to shut down NTDTV, and that he could restart it at any time.

According to information published by RSF, a Eutelsat representative said in Beijing, “It was our company CEO in France who decided to stop NTDTV’s signal. (...)We could have turned off any of the transponders. (...) It was because we got repeated complaints and reminders from the Chinese government. (...) Two years ago, the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television kept saying the same thing over and over: ‘Stop that TV station before we begin to talk.”

In 2005 when Mr. Berretta attempted to cut off NTDTV, The Wall Street Journal revealed that Mr. Berretta sought to use NTDTV as a pawn to get China’s business in exchange to shutting off the channel’s satellite broadcasts over China. Despite Mr. Berretta’s assertion that it was all business, all evidence had shown that Mr. Berretta did it because of Beijing’s pressure and its lucrative contracts.

The European Union’s charter that created Eutelsat requires the practice of non-discrimination, equal access, and respect for media pluralism. Eutelsat’s own corporate description states: “For millions of homes, the Group’s satellites are synonymous with openness and exchange.” Mr. Berretta once again blatantly trashed its international and European commitments and agreements. Once again he put Eutelsat’s credibility and its moral standard of conducting business at stake.

Since the inception of NTDTV broadcast on W5, it has become indispensable to a vast number of Chinese viewers. For matters that concern Chinese people’s lives, for what actually happens around them and in the outside world, NTDTV has been always among the first to report events. From reporting on the SARS epidemic three weeks before Beijing owned up the crisis, to the large number of deaths of school children due to the collapse of shoddily constructed school buildings during the recent earthquake, from extensively covering forbidden topics such as June 4th Tiananmen massacre to providing a pluralistic platform for all voices to be heard both inside and outside China, NTDTV has become, as one mainland viewer said, “like free air and one feels suffocated without it.”.

With the Beijing Olympics only weeks away, when Chinese people need ever more uncensored information, Mr. Berretta shut down NTDTV, slammed shut the only window of free information to millions of Chinese people. This is simply unconscionable and must not be allowed to stand.

In 2005, international outcry and outpouring support for the the free flow on information reversed Mr. Berretta’s decision to cut off NTDTV. We now call on the international community, Eutelsat Board of Directors and share holders, the media and supporters of free flow of information to once again push back Mr. Berretta’s attempt, to rescue the only free satellite window, to restore the free access of millions of Chinese to uncensored TV broadcasts, and to save Eutelsat’s own reputation and credibility from Chairman Berretta’s cynical sell-out of the right of millions of Chinese people to free information.

© Copyright 2002-2007 AFAR