Sitting down on the sofa after dinner, I switched on the television for an evening dose of news not censored by the Propaganda Department - but the screen said only: 'Sorry, no signal.' The next morning I questioned the tank-like lady who manages our building. 'I removed all the dishes on the roof,' she replied triumphantly. 'They are all illegal. You should not be watching these channels.' 'But everyone in Shanghai watches them,' I protested. 'Nobody knows. The police will not go to the roof to look.' Delighted to see one of the well-paid tenants of the building squirming before her, she said: 'That is your problem. You should not have signed up for this in the first place. You cannot complain about the money you lost.' Ms Ding, 50, lives on about 1,200 yuan a month. Like her colleagues who take care of the building, she is bitter about the enormous gap in income that separates her from the residents - both foreign and Chinese, some of them half her age. She has worked all her life in a state company and wonders what justice there is in the world that leaves people like her with such a meagre income and rewards others - who had the blessing of an education denied to them by Communist Party campaigns - with such a fortune. I regretted that I had not been more sensitive to this, and wondered if a thick red packet of gift money at the Lunar New Year might have saved my dish. Next, I called Mr Liu, the man at the satellite company. Reluctant to talk on the phone, he came round to visit at the weekend. 'Sorry to be rude on the phone,' he said. 'The police bug it so I have to be careful. If I could find another profession, I would not be doing this. Business has been bad since July, when Beijing issued a directive telling the police to crack down on satellite television. Our orders have dropped. Perhaps Madame Ding received an instruction.' About 5 per cent of Shanghai households watch channels beamed by satellite from outside the mainland, through a dish fixed onto the balcony or the roof. The installation cost runs from 3,000 yuan for channels from Hong Kong, to several thousands more for those from Taiwan, the United States and Europe. They are illegal, except for people in luxury hotels and upmarket residential apartment buildings and villas authorised for sale to foreigners. There, the government can use a decoder to switch off content it considers undesirable. The individual dishes are outside official control. Mr Liu was pessimistic. 'The government is increasingly nervous about what we learn from overseas. There is too much bad news that it does not want us to know.'