U.S. probes links between buyer of Tijuana station and China’s Phoenix TV
A large Spanish-language radio station in Mexico will soon begin broadcasting in Chinese in a deal critics say will bring Beijing propaganda to Chinese Americans throughout Southern California.
A Federal Communications Commission filing on the sale of radio station XEWW AM 690 radio near Tijuana reveals the buyer has ties to Phoenix Satellite Television US, a subsidiary of Hong Kong’s pro-Beijing Phoenix TV.
According to government sources, signs that Phoenix is involved in the purchase of the radio station prompted the Trump administration last week to begin an investigation into the national security implications of the sale.
Phoenix TV has been identified by U.S. intelligence agencies as a major overseas outlet used to spread propaganda and promote the policies of the communist government in Beijing. The Hong Kong television station also has close ties to China’s intelligence service and military.
The deal for XEWW, a 77,500-watt station capable of reaching all of southern California, was brokered by a New York financial company, H & H Capital Partners.
The sale, if approved by the FCC, will turn the AM radio station from a Spanish broadcaster into a Chinese-language outlet capable of reaching over 600,000 Chinese Americans living in the San Diego-Los Angeles area with Beijing’s propaganda themes.
Even though the sale involves a foreign broadcaster, the FCC has a role because the Mexican radio station broadcasts into the United States. Under a 1992 U.S.-Mexico agreement limiting foreign broadcasts from Mexico that can reach the United States, the FCC can block the sale if the agreement will be violated.
The FCC granted temporary authority for the station to continue Spanish broadcasts on July 20, pending a final review by the commission.
The station was sold by GLR Southern California. GLR, or Grupo Latino de Radio, is the U.S. subsidiary of PRISA Radio, the world largest Spanish-language radio group.
XEWW is located in Rosarito, Mexico, about 10 miles from the U.S. border.
The Justice Department probe into the radio deal reflects stepped up efforts by the administration to counter foreign influence operations.
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein announced last month that both the department and FBI are targeting foreign disinformation and influence operations, through prosecutions, counterintelligence operations, and other legal measures.
“Influence operations are a form of information warfare,” Rosenstein said during a security conference in Colorado. “Covert propaganda and disinformation are among the primary weapons.”
Phoenix TV was blocked from an attempt to buy into the U.S. broadcasting market in Southern California in 2013. The Chinese broadcaster tried to purchase radio station KDAY, an FM station in Redondo Beach, Calif., and turn it into a Chinese language broadcaster.
That deal was led by RBC Communications, a group of investors led by Phoenix and its editor, Anthony Yuen. The deal fell through in October 2013 after funding irregularities in the proposed $19.5 million purchase were discovered.
Sarah Cook, a Chinese expert at Freedom House, said in recent congressional testimony that Phoenix TV is the second most widely viewed Chinese-language cable channel in the United States, and an example of a Chinese propaganda outlet not directly owned by the Beijing government.
“Owned by a former military officer with close ties to Beijing officials, Phoenix TV’s coverage is typically favorable to the [Communist Party of China],” Cook told the U.S.-China Economic Security Review Commission.
The chairman of the Hong Kong-based Phoenix Satellite Television Holdings Ltd. is Liu Changle, a former PLA propaganda official who is close to senior Chinese government leaders.
“Moreover, over the past two years, it has been used as an outlet for airing televised confessions by various detained CCP critics, most notably all five Hong Kong booksellers abducted by Chinese security forces in late 2015,” Cook said.
According to Cook, China state television, CCTV, holds a 10 percent stake in Phoenix. As a result, Phoenix does not stray in its reporting from official propaganda themes set in Beijing.
China is seeking to expand its influence operations in the United States from Chinese-language outlets to English-language media, she said.
Lianchao Han, a former Senate aide who has studied China’s overseas influence operations, said the attempted purchase of XEWW appears to be part of a larger Beijing global propaganda operation.
China began spending over $7 billion 10 years ago to implement a global propaganda strategy, Han said.
The goal of the propaganda is to garner support for Beijing’s policies, and to play down or ignore nefarious Chinese activities, such as arms proliferation to rogue states and human rights abuses.
“Today the Chinese government media’s presence can be seen everywhere in North America. It has systematically taken control of nearly all overseas Chinese language media, bought English-language radio and TV stations, hired hundreds of American journalists to do their bidding,” Han said.
He added: “Phoenix TV’s recent purchase of XEWW through H&H Capital shows the regime continues to carry out this strategy of brainwashing people in the free world to endorse Beijing’s policy of global expansion and to re-write the current international rules and order.”
Full article: Mexican Radio to Beam Chinese Propaganda (Washington Free Beacon)