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BBC World Service in a jam as China blocks broadcasts

Beeb strongly condemns disruption

Barbed wire surrounding communications tower

The BBC has claimed China is blocking shortwave radio broadcasts of its World Service, in what could be retaliation for its attempts to cover the recent hacking allegations against the People’s Liberation Army (PLA).

In a no-nonsense statement, the Beeb said it “strongly condemns” the behaviour, “which is designed to disrupt audiences’ free access to news and information”.

The Corporation fell short of directly accusing the Chinese authorities because of a lack of definitive evidence, but said “the extensive and co-ordinated efforts are indicative of a well-resourced country such as China”.

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.

Those journalists were forced to hand over their footage at the time but it seems as if the Chinese authorities may have gone a stage further now by seeking wider retribution against the Beeb.

It wouldn’t be the first time China has retaliated in such a fashion. Bloomberg and the New York Times both had their web sites blocked inside China after publishing stories alleging vast wealth accumulated by the families of outgoing Premier Wen Jiabao and incoming president Xi Jinping.

However, blocking an English language radio broadcast is a more unusual step for the Chinese authorities as it would have limited impact inside the People’s Republic.

Director of BBC Global News, Peter Horrocks said the following in a canned statement:

The jamming of shortwave transmissions is being timed to cause maximum disruption to BBC World Service English broadcasts in China. The deliberate and co-ordinated efforts by authorities in countries such as China and Iran illustrate the significance and importance of the role the BBC undertakes to provide impartial and accurate information to audiences around the world.

The World Service has over 230 million listeners globally but is also broadcast on AM, FM and digital satellite and cable. ®

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