Chunghwa Telecom Co (中華電信), the nation’s largest telecoms operator, reversed a controversial decision not to renew the broadcasting license for New Tang Dynasty Television (NTD, 新唐人電視台) and said the station would be carried on its ST-2 satellite, which is scheduled to become operational in August.
“We’ve agreed that they can use the ST-2,” Chen Huei-yen (陳慧燕), assistant manager at Chunghwa’s international branch, said yesterday.
Chen said NTD and Chunghwa had reached a consensus on Sunday whereby the TV station could use the ST-2.
Teresa Chu (朱婉琪), a Taiwan-based spokeswoman for NTD, confirmed that an agreement with Chunghwa had been reached, but declined to provide details of the contract, saying it would be made public later this week.
Both companies are scheduled to unveil the details of their renewed contract tomorrow.
Early last month, Chunghwa announced it had rejected an application by NTD to renew its lease, which will expire on Aug. 9, saying it would not have sufficient bandwidth to provide the service after it switches from the ST-1 satellite -currently used to the new ST-2 satellite.
Asked if the company had persuaded other customers to switch to other satellites so the ST-2 could provide bandwidth for NTD, Chen said this was not the approach they had taken.
“Our service representatives tried to do that, but only got yelled at by our customers. It was not feasible,” Chen said. “We still don’t have enough bandwidth. We just have to work it out.”
Chen said the company might lease other satellites to solve the bandwidth problem.
Founded by members of Falun Gong, which is banned in China, NTD relies on Chunghwa for broadcasts services in Taiwan and China. While Chunghwa said the decision not to renew NTD’s contract was not politically motivated, NTD said it suspected the telecoms carrier did so to placate Beijing because the company is planning to expand its business operations in China.
The case has garnered international attention, with politicians in the US and Europe urging Taiwan’s government to refrain from suppressing freedom of speech by turning down NTD’s application.
Chunghwa had offered to help NTD find another satellite, but representatives from the station turned down the offer.
Media rights campaign group Reporters Without Borders expressed concern about Chunghwa’s decision and questioned the reasons it gave. Mounting pressure from the international community led the Executive Yuan to hold a cross-departmental meeting chaired by Premier Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) last month to settle the dispute.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY AFP