The BBC issued an official statement on Monday responding to reports that transmission of its World Service English broadcasts were being jammed in China. The broadcast follows a team of BBC journalists who were detained by the Chinese military and had their footage confiscated as the result of a recent investigation into a rumored secret branch of the military specializing in cyber espionage.
In the statement, the BBC says that although it is currently impossible to definitively identify the source of the signal jamming the World Service English broadcasts, “the extensive and co-ordinated efforts are indicative of a well-resourced country such as China.” BBC further notes that the publicly-funded broadcaster “strongly condemns this action, which is designed to disrupt audiences’ free access to news and information.”
This kind of jamming is sadly far from unknown by the BBC; recently, BBC Persian transmissions in Iran have been subject to this kind of treatment, and during the days of the Cold War, the World Service was also blocked using a similar method of jamming the shortwave frequency that the station was broadcasted on. In addition to shortwave, the World Service is transmitted across the globe on both AM and FM radio, as well as digitally and through satellite providers; All told, it is estimated to reach a weekly audience of around 239 million listeners internationally. Lastly, the corporation has found its satellite broadcasts also being jammed in recent years.
It’s unknown whether this current World Service English jamming is related to BBC Beijing correspondent John Sudworth who was detained by Chinese military last week while investigating the suggestion by Mandiant, an American cyber security firm, that one of the “most prolific” Internet threats to security is connected to (or, indeed, actually made up of) China’s second Bureau of the People’s Liberation Army. “We were stopped pretty promptly from filming,” Sudworth subsequently told BBC News about the experience. “We were briefly detained by military personnel at the gates, taken inside the base and they refused to let us go until we agreed to give up our tape.”
Officially, Chinese authorities deny Mandiant’s allegations, although on Monday, the chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee Senator Dianne Feinstein described the Mandiant report as “essentially correct” during an appearance on MSNBC.