BBC and VOA condemn Chinese jamming of their English shortwave broadcasts (update).

Posted: 27 Feb 2013   Print   Send a link
BBC World Service press statement, 25 Feb 2013: "The BBC has received reports that World Service English shortwave frequencies are being jammed in China. Though it is not possible at this stage to attribute the source of the jamming definitively, the extensive and co-ordinated efforts are indicative of a well-resourced country such as China. The BBC strongly condemns this action, which is designed to disrupt audiences’ free access to news and information. In the past couple of years the BBC has experienced jamming of satellite services. While shortwave jamming is generally less frequent, it does affect BBC Persian transmissions in Iran and was historically used to block BBC broadcasts during the Cold War." -- While China has for many years jammed certain Western shortwave broadcasts in Mandarin, Cantonese, Tibetan, and Uighur, English has so far been unscathed. VOA English is apparently also now jammed. This audio, as received in Beijing, is VOA English frequency 9490 kHz, 23 Feb at 0037 UTC.

Update: Voice of America press release, 26 Feb 2013: "Voice of America condemns the recent start of deliberate interference with its English language shortwave broadcasts into China. Monitors listening to VOA broadcasts say this interference 'appears intentional,' and is strongest in regions around Tibet and along the Indian border. 'The Chinese government has for years jammed VOA and Radio Free Asia Chinese and Tibetan language programs and blocked VOA vernacular language websites,' said VOA Director David Ensor, 'but English language programs have historically not been blocked.' ... Monitors say the interference affects about 75% of the English language transmissions to China and is similar to the type of jamming aimed at VOA Horn of Africa broadcasts, which are targeted by equipment installed by China in Ethiopia. Reports of jamming on the VOA shortwave frequencies to China began pouring in earlier this week."

VOA News, 26 Feb 2013: "VOA broadcast engineers say Radio Australia also is being jammed. At VOA headquarters in Washington, engineers say that while the agency's Chinese-language broadcasts are routinely jammed in China, its English broadcasts usually are not. They noticed the jamming of the English programs about a month ago and say it appears to use a new technology."

The Guardian, 26 Feb 2013, Jonathan Kaiman: "China has brushed off accusations of jamming the BBC's English-language World Service radio broadcasts a day after the broadcaster announced the interference. 'I don't understand this situation,' foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said at a daily press briefing on Tuesday, when asked to comment on the allegations. She said reporters should contact 'relevant departments' for further information, but did not specify which departments or how to contact them." -- The photo accompanying this Guardian news item is of an internet cafe. Apparently there are no shortwave radio cafes in China.

The Register, 26 Feb 2013, Phil Muncaster: "The timing is particularly suspicious, coming as it does just days after BBC journalists were detained by police after trying to film outside the Shanghai Peoples Liberation Army compound alleged by security firm Mandiant to have been the home of prolific hacking group APT1."

China Digital Times, 26 Feb 2013, Samuel Wade: "The slightly anachronistic air to the news has puzzled some, not least China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which declined to comment. ... At The Washington Post, Max Fisher suggested that the jamming might be retaliation for the BBC’s coverage of a recent report on alleged hackers in the Chinese military. ... VOA’s statement points in a different direction, however, noting that the interference is particularly intense in Tibet and along the Indian border. As self-immolations continue, Chinese authorities have fought to stem the flow of information into and out of Tibet, and state media have accused VOA broadcasts of fueling the protests by glorifying self-immolators. Officials have reportedly ordered the confiscation of TVs and dismantling of satellite dishes, but portable radios are easier to conceal, perhaps making jamming a more practical option."

The Economist, 26 Feb 2013, via The Business Insider: "The potential impact of China’s alleged computer hacking ... would be far more ominous than any attempt to block listeners in China from listening to BBC news reports read aloud in English. Anyone in China who is able to understand such a broadcast in the first place is also likely able to read all kinds of news and information in many other ways. It has been years since I fired up my own shortwave radio in Beijing, or found myself within earshot of anyone else firing up his. ... This week’s news about shortwave jamming is only a fresh reminder that—in its cyber-snooping as in other endeavours—China tends to keep an eye on the lower rungs of the technological ladder, even as it climbs ever higher."