Eutelsat, NTDTV Controversy Continues

Seven weeks ago, Eutelsat’s W5 craft suffered a major technical failure, resulting in Eutelsat having to shut down four transponders. They lost a number of channels, including controversial Chinese channel New Tang Dynasty (NTDTV). 

That’s one side of the story.

The other side of the story goes like this:

Because New York-based NTDTV is sympathetic to the banned Falun Gong organisation and is one of the few critical voices going into China, NTDTV has blamed Eutelsat for attempting to cosy up to China in order to win more Chinese business. (Muddying the waters was the admission by a Eutelsat staffer in China that the channel had been taken off the air because of political pressure.)

Not coincidentally, critics maintain, the loss of NTDTV on Eutelsat came just before the Olympics began in Beijing.


RapidTV has more: 

[0]ver the past seven weeks NTDTV has carried out an impressive press and public relations exercise targeting Eutelsat, and winning support from international but largely ill-informed press organisations such as Reporters Without Borders and other independent NGOs. The pressure is continuing. Last week NTDTV participated in a Forum in Sydney, Australia and which featured speakers arguing for more independent voices going into China.

Adding to the pressure was a statement from the Brussels-based International Federation of Journalists arguing for Eutelsat to “stop hiding behind the technical mumbo-jumbo” and to reinstate the signal. The European Union has also written to Eutelsat asking for an explanation.

Eutelsat, in a measured response, has repeated that it holds “absolutely no prejudice against channels broadcast by our satellites and notably NTDTV which continues to broadcast in Europe” via Eutelsat’s Hot Bird system, says Eutelsat. “NTDTV has been treated in every respect in identical fashion to other channels present on the W5 capacity that had to be shut down.  The loss of the use of one of the satellite’s solar panels, requiring the immediate shutdown of four transponders used principally for Direct-to-Home television broadcasting which consumes most power, resulted in a loss of signal over Asia for EuroNews and C-Music as well as NTDTV.”

Eutelsat also responded to reports that capacity on W5 has magically become freshly available since the incident with the termination of broadcasts by Radio Free Asia and Voice of America. “These services were broadcast within the framework of a contract with the American broadcaster IBB. The termination of this contract, which Eutelsat was aware of before the W5 incident happened, was naturally taken into account in managing the consequences of the satellite’s power loss. The end of the IBB contract provides us with margin which is required to continue operating W5 in orbit in a safe condition, but it does not make it possible for us to restore any DTH broadcasting service, either for NTDTV or any other TV channel.”

Eutelsat’s statement continued: “The extent of the problem affecting W5 was explained in person to NTDTV when we received Mr Wang, President of NTD TV Canada, at our headquarters in Paris on 6 August. We confirmed to him that the technical anomaly is irreversible as the technical review completed with Thales Alenia Space (the satellite’s manufacturer) has concluded that there has been a 50% reduction of the satellite’s power following permanent loss of the use of one of the satellite’s two solar arrays.  We also confirmed to Mr Wang that Eutelsat operates no other satellite with coverage of Asia but that there are many satellites operated by other operators that do have capacity available and that are even able to offer superior coverage of China than W5.

Jean-Paul Brillaud, Eutelsat’s deputy CEO, stressed in an interview with Agence France Presse, that the [technical] breakdown is irreversible, and that NTDTV had not considered alternative transmission solutions suggested by Eutelsat.