Faced with budget cuts, major media organizations such as Voice of America (VOA) and BBC World Service recently announced they will cancel their radio broadcasts in Chinese, among other foreign language services. They will shift their focus from shortwave broadcasts to digital channels such as the Internet and cell phone operations to serve their listeners.
For a number of years, Radio Taiwan International (RTI) has been focusing on shortwave and digital media at the same time.. Even though there is a worldwide decline in the number of shortwave listeners today, we see it is equally important to maintain our short wave services in mainland China and other regions in the world. The popularity of the internet services does not deter RTI from broadcasting on the short wave for many reasons. We have seen the example of the Jasmine Revolution in Egypt where the government cut off Internet access during the demonstrations. When that happens, shortwave broadcasting plays a crucial role in providing people with information from the outside world. Another reason is that Taiwan is strategically close to mainland China and our shortwave broadcasts, if not jammed or interrupted, can easily reach all regions of mainland China. Even though mainland China has opened up economically, it has not politically. Many mainland Chinese listeners still like to listen to programs from Radio Taiwan International, as described by a shortwave leading magazine Passport to World Band Radio, which compared programs of RTI as more “heart-lighted” than those of CRI (China Radio International).
In addition, one of the most important jobs of RTI is to disseminate information on Taiwan to our friends worldwide who are interested in this island country, most of whom are located in South America, Africa, the Caribbean, and the South Pacific. Many of the listeners in these regions rely very much on shortwave as Internet connectivity is still not as fast.
To serve elites and those who are comfortable with the Internet, RTI underwent a facelift on the Chinese webpage with a more user-friendly Web 2.0 version. The English Web 2.0 webpage will be launched this summer. Apart from Internet broadcasting, other channels such as mobile phone and IP TV (Internet Protocol TV) have also been launched to serve those who are interested in visual presentation.
RTI’s webpage can also satisfy the needs of intellectuals and young people who prefer online information and social networking. Our new webpage will have more audio-visual contents, which can be shared on Facebook, Plurk, Twitter and so on. More importantly, they will also be made available via podcasts, all of which are available within iTunes and can be easily downloaded. Podcasts are made available via RSS feeds as well.
The transformation of RTI in this digital era will certainly bring our listeners a brand new look and listening experience, especially as we face the transformation and innovation of media communications.
Philip Wang is the President of Radio Taiwan International. Mr. Wang obtained his master’s degree in history from Fujen Catholic University in Taiwan. Prior to serving as president at Radio Taiwan International he had worked at a number of media outlets in Taiwan.