In 2004, NTDTV began broadcasting into China from a satellite owned by French company Eutelsat. In June 2008, Eutelsat terminated NTDTV's broadcast suddenly, saying that several satellite transponders had to be shut down because of technical difficulties. One of these transponders carried NTDTV's 24-hour signal into China.
Many believe Eutelsat's decision was politically motivated, with the satellite carrier bowing to pressure from the Chinese communist regime. Some of NTDTV's programmes have been critical of the Chinese regime, including those that expose human rights abuses like the persecution against Falun Gong.
Last year, an undercover investigator from Reporters Without Borders spoke on the phone with a Eutelsat employee in Beijing. The employee admitted that Eutelsat's CEO made the decision to stop NTDTV's signal after repeated requests from Chinese authorities.
In July 2009, NTDTV petitioned the Commerce Court in Paris to appoint experts to investigate Eutelsat's actions. But on Tuesday, November 17, the Court denied the request. It said there was no direct contractual relationship between Eutelsat and NTDTV.
Assistant to NTDTV's legal counsel Joseph Breham questioned the Court's reasoning--saying it was a technicality and not legitimate.
[Joseph Breham, NTDTV legal counsel assistant]:
"Eutelsat never signs contracts directly with a TV station. They pass the contracts on to wholesale companies, who then contract with the TV stations. If we follow the reasoning of the Court, Eutelsat can never be responsible for any signal it cuts belonging to any TV station."
Vincent Brossel from Reporters Without Borders also expressed disappointment over the decision.
[Vincent Brossel, head of Asian Affairs, Reporters Without Borders]:
"It's true that this decision is quite surprising and disappointing. The Commerce Court ruled that there was no direct relationship between Eutelsat and NTDTV. But that's not true, since NTDTV was being broadcast on Eutelsat."
NTDTV will appeal the Court's decision.
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