That radio station you listen to on the morning drive may be secretly owned by China
An investigative report by Reuters reveals a disturbing bit of news about the American radio market.
According to the wire service, China has been secretly buying radio stations around the world – including in the United States. Not only do they own the stations, but they supply them with content, making them a stealth propaganda arm of the Chinese media.
In August, foreign ministers from 10 nations blasted China for building artificial islands in the disputed South China Sea. As media around the world covered the diplomatic clash, a radio station that serves the most powerful city in America had a distinctive take on the news.
Located outside Washington, D.C., WCRW radio made no mention of China’s provocative island project. Instead, an analyst explained that tensions in the region were due to unnamed “external forces” trying “to insert themselves into this part of the world using false claims.”
Behind WCRW’s coverage is a fact that’s never broadcast: The Chinese government controls much of what airs on the station, which can be heard on Capitol Hill and at the White House.
WCRW is just one of a growing number of stations across the world through which Beijing is broadcasting China-friendly news and programming.
A Reuters investigation spanning four continents has identified at least 33 radio stations in 14 countries that are part of a global radio web structured in a way that obscures its majority shareholder: state-run China Radio International, or CRI.
Many of these stations primarily broadcast content created or supplied by CRI or by media companies it controls in the United States, Australia and Europe. Three Chinese expatriate businessmen, who are CRI’s local partners, run the companies and in some cases own a stake in the stations. The network reaches from Finland to Nepal to Australia, and from Philadelphia to San Francisco.
At WCRW, Beijing holds a direct financial interest in the Washington station’s broadcasts. Corporate records in the United States and China show a Beijing-based subsidiary of the Chinese state-owned radio broadcaster owns 60 percent of an American company that leases almost all of the station’s airtime.
China has a number of state-run media properties, such as the Xinhua news agency, that are well-known around the world. But American officials charged with monitoring foreign media ownership and propaganda said they were unaware of the Chinese-controlled radio operation inside the United States until contacted by Reuters. A half-dozen former senior U.S. officials said federal authorities should investigate whether the arrangement violates laws governing foreign media and agents in the United States.
This happened right under the noses of our regulators, without their knowledge and certainly without their approval. Why bother to have FCC oversight in this area if they aren't doing their jobs? If Reuters can connect the dots, why can't our government?
On cable and satellite TV, there's the Russian English-language propaganda outlet RT. There's also Al Jazeera America, which gives a decidedly pro-Muslim slant to the news.
Neither of those stations tries to hide its affiliation. If you tune in, you know exactly what you're getting. Not so this secretive network of Chinese-owned radio stations. They should be free to broadcast whatever they wish – as long as they publicly identify who owns them and where their content is coming from.
Hat Tip: Ed Lasky