China steps up jamming of the BBC

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 16 December, 1993, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 16 December, 1993, 12:00am

CHINA has stepped up the jamming of all BBC World Service radio transmissions in recent weeks, blocking them even more than after the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre, the head of the service said yesterday.

Robert Phyllis, World Service managing director, said the only reason he could see for the move was the negotiations over Governor Chris Patten's democracy plans.

Beijing was not entirely wiping out the signal and listeners could still hear the service with difficulty, he told the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee.

The jamming started on transmissions out of Hong Kong and, to counter it, the BBC had rented time on transmitters in Japan, South Korea and the former Soviet Union, but these too were now being jammed, as were Voice of America transmissions.

The only other country in the world jamming BBC signals is Libya.

Mr Phyllis said the BBC's plans had been on the assumption that its Hong Kong transmitter would not be available after 1997. It was now using a new transmitter in Thailand covering a wide area of the Far East.

Mr Phyllis complained that Beijing was only allowing two BBC correspondents into the country, fewer than accredited from the US, Japan, Australia and France.

Mr Phyllis estimated that World Service television would now be received in about 4.8 million homes across China via STAR TV.

The number of satellite dishes available was growing and the effectiveness of the government ban on them must be in doubt. Mr Phyllis refused to be drawn on the World Service's commercial relationship with STAR TV, which has recently hit problems.

''We are in discussion with STAR about the future and longer-term plans, but it is too early to know how those plans might develop at this stage,'' he said.