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China Government United States

Virginia Radio Station Broadcasting Chinese Propaganda (reuters.com) 294

An anonymous reader writes: An investigation by Reuters has uncovered a radio station located just outside Washington, D.C. that broadcasts dedicated Chinese propaganda to the U.S. capital and the surrounding area. In 2009, under new ownership, Virginia-based station WAGE erected new broadcast towers, amplifying its signal by ten times, and changed its call letters to WCRW, for "China Radio Washington." All WCRW programming shares a common theme, with newscasts that avoid any criticism of China and are critical of Beijing's political enemies; for example, a report on pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong last year did not explain why people were in the streets, and said only that the demonstrations had "failed without support." WCRW's American owners claim they have no input on content and are only rebroadcasting programming provided to them by a state-sponsored Chinese company to which they lease the airtime. U.S. law requires that anyone seeking to influence American policy or public opinion on behalf of a foreign government must register with the Department of Justice, but according to Reuters, government officials didn't even know WCRW existed until Reuters told them about it.
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Virginia Radio Station Broadcasting Chinese Propaganda

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  • Well duh (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 02, 2015 @04:46PM (#50850383)

    "U.S. law requires that anyone seeking to influence American policy or public opinion on behalf of a foreign government must register with the Department of Justice, but according to Reuters, government officials didn't even know WCRW existed until Reuters told them about it."

    Like anyone in Washington does their job.

    • Re:Well duh (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Nidi62 ( 1525137 ) on Monday November 02, 2015 @04:51PM (#50850429)

      "U.S. law requires that anyone seeking to influence American policy or public opinion on behalf of a foreign government must register with the Department of Justice, but according to Reuters, government officials didn't even know WCRW existed until Reuters told them about it."

      Like anyone in Washington does their job.

      They're too busy trying to influence American policy and public opinion on behalf of our own government.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      "U.S. law requires that anyone seeking to influence American policy or public opinion on behalf of a foreign government must register

      How can this possibly be compatible with the US Constitution? Anyone should be free to say whatever they want.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by ganjadude ( 952775 )
        The only reason i can remotely think of in this particular case is that the people are a middle man for the chinese government. The chinese government does not have constitutional rights in this country, therefore their talking heads dont.

        dont know if that is correct, but its the only reasoning I can think of that makes sense.
        • Re:Well duh (Score:4, Insightful)

          by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) on Monday November 02, 2015 @05:21PM (#50850737)

          The only reason i can remotely think of in this particular case is that the people are a middle man for the chinese government.

          Sorry, my bad. I complete missed the modification to the first amendment. It has now been changed to read: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances, unless they are middlemen for the Chinese government.

          I am so glad that the government censors are protecting me from speech that they may disagree with.

          • im not saying I agree with it, im just trying to figure it out as are you
          • Possibly the power of the government to regulate trade with other nations?

          • by KGIII ( 973947 )

            Welcome to America, can I take your order please?

            Don't worry, everything is super-sized for your enjoyment. I've never been a proponent for ignorance but I can sure see why it's blissful.

          • Commercial speech and private speech have always been separate. As a citizen I can broadcast Chinese propaganda all I want, or pay others to do it, as a long as it's on my dime. That's my speech. However, when I take money from the Chinese to broadcast their content, I'm not protected by private speech laws. That's the government of China's speech, and they aren't guaranteed jack shit under the constitution.
          • Agents of foreign governments are not party to the Constitution or its protections. Their rights are governed by international treaties and conventions. Individuals can come here and say what they will, but governments are a very different matter. How foreign powers interact with the American people is not a free speech issue, it's a foreign relations issue.
        • by AK Marc ( 707885 )
          "Congress shall make no law [...] abridging the freedom of speech"

          Even that doesn't make sense. After all, we have people pushing here all the time that corporations have no rights, but you can't stop the people who make up corporations from exercising their rights. So China has no rights, but the Chinese people have rights, as well as the Americans advocating for them.

          What's funny is that the same people pushing for corporate rights are the ones most against the people advocating Chinese interests havi
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by tnk1 ( 899206 )

            The Constitution refers to "We the People of the United States..." There is no reference to the people of China. And the rights under the Constitution should not be asserted as to belong to anyone other than a US citizen.

            Now, a corporation is not a citizen, but if it is made up of US citizens, then you have an issue where regulating a US corporation's speech may be preventing US citizens from expressing their opinion, which would be unconstitutional.

            So the position you seem to think is odd makes perfect s

            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by Brymouse ( 563050 )

              The Constitution protects rights of the people and lists powers granted to the government by the people, not the other way around.

              All people have inalienable rights, and the Constitution protects these rights. It does not grant any rights to the people.

            • by AK Marc ( 707885 )
              "Congress shall make no law" has no exception for Chinese, as you assert.

              And the rights under the Constitution should not be asserted as to belong to anyone other than a US citizen.

              Some rights are guaranteed to citizens. Others to residents. And others to everyone (though, obviously not enforced everywhere). Read it. The people, citizens and such are worded differently in different sections with different meanings.

              • So the Chinese have gone about this the wrong way. They should have spent the money on some Congressmen or Senators to be their mouthpieces, because as we all know, politicians are happy to be anyone's whores.
            • The Constitution refers to "We the People of the United States..." There is no reference to the people of China. And the rights under the Constitution should not be asserted as to belong to anyone other than a US citizen.

              There is also no reference in the Constitution to the government of Israel, or Fox News (owned by an Australian and a Saudi national). You don't see them getting busted for spreading propaganda. Hell, they don't even have to register as foreign lobbyists.

          • What's funny is that the same people pushing for corporate rights are the ones most against the people advocating Chinese interests having rights.

            I don't think that is true at all. The person here speaking most forcefully for free speech for the Chinese is me. I have also spoken out forcefully for free speech for corporations. Restrictions on anyone's rights are a restriction on everyone's rights. Other than the "clear and present danger" exception for things like yelling fire in a theater, everyone, and every organization, should be free to say whatever they want. If you don't like it, the answer is not censorship, but MORE SPEECH explaining wh

            • Restrictions on anyone's rights are a restriction on everyone's rights.

              Political campaign finance reform is a very large, very broad sword that is wielded with unexpected results.

              Current rules require donors be identified for certain contributions. Most people think this is a good idea -- knowing that the Koch brothers are paying for an advertising campaign for certain candidates, for example.

              The registration in this instance isn't prohibiting any speech, it just identifies the paid source of the speech.

              Other than the "clear and present danger" exception for things like yelling fire in a theater, everyone, and every organization, should be free to say whatever they want.

              Free as in beer, or free as in ? Is it unconstitutional that WCRW nee

              • by AK Marc ( 707885 )

                Is it unconstitutional that WCRW needs to pay licensing fees to the federal government in order to use the public airwaves to speak?

                WCRW already paid for the radio license. Separate is the licence based on content.

                • WCRW already paid for the radio license.

                  Nonsequitor. It doesn't matter that they've already paid, the question was, is it constitutional that they have to pay? Last week, last month, last year, it was still a payment to be able to use the public airwaves to speak.

                  Separate is the licence based on content.

                  I have no idea what this is supposed to mean. What "license based on content"? Not an FCC license, since that license isn't based on content. The registration of the person making the speech on behalf of a foreign government?Also not based on content, and it isn't a license.

                  • by KGIII ( 973947 )

                    I've done some looking now. It doesn't appear that this is anything that can be revoked - they simply need to register. There's no outright fee associated with it, either. At least not from what Google tells me. Unfortunately, I'm not able to find much on this. It doesn't look like it's subject to revocation nor does it incur any additional fees. If I'm mistaken then I welcome correction but that's what some basic skimming has told me. In addition, there's not a bunch of information on this unless I'm missi

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by BitZtream ( 692029 )

        You are not allowed to say anything you want whenever you want. Stop quoting the constitution like you've actually read it let alone like you understand it. At no point has that ever been the case. Ever.

        Public speech IS controlled. And here, it's not prevention of said speech it's just registration ... You know ... Like so many other freedoms we have require some documents because some whacko does something to ruin it for the rest of us

        • by creimer ( 824291 )
          You can say whatever you want whenever you want — as long as you're willing to accept the consequences. The people who screamed the loudest about the U.S. Constitution are the ones who don't want to accept the consequences for their "free" speech. Freedom always has a price tag. Most people are unwilling to pay for it.
        • Sorry, no.

          This speech is only regulated because it is a foreign government's speech. You don't have to register to speak, or else FRS radios, CBs, and Walkie-Talkies wouldn't exist.

          • by KGIII ( 973947 )

            An interesting note... In an earlier thread, I saw that APK quoted your signature. I do believe that signatures are not visible unless the user is logged in. APK has stated, numerous times, that they have no account. I'm unsure of what to make of it but I did find it amusing though I probably should have commented in that thread. Alas, I'm too lazy... Well, technically, it didn't cross my mind.

            As stated, I have no idea what to make of it. I just noticed the comment that quoted your signature. Personally, I

        • some whacko does something to ruin it for the rest of us

          What are you talking about? Which whacko "ruined" the 1st Amendment?

          • by Qzukk ( 229616 )

            I'd start with the one that decided that obscenity can be censored, and that what constitutes obscenity is decided on an as-needed basis by the government when it wants to censor something.

        • by AK Marc ( 707885 )
          "Congress shall make no law [...] abridging the freedom of speech"

          Except for all the laws abridging the freedom of speech
      • by EvilSS ( 557649 )

        "U.S. law requires that anyone seeking to influence American policy or public opinion on behalf of a foreign government must register

        How can this possibly be compatible with the US Constitution? Anyone should be free to say whatever they want.

        It's the "on behalf of a foreign government" part that makes it legal. We, like most countries, have laws in place to put checks on foreign political influence over our own government. Your personal beliefs and speech are protected but if you are essentially a citizen proxy for a foreign power that's a different situation.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          It's the "on behalf of a foreign government" part that makes it illegal.

          I see. So when the 1st amendment says there shall be "no law" restricting the free exercise of speech, with part of "no law" allows this restriction?

          • by tnk1 ( 899206 )

            Registration of a lobbyist or foreign power doesn't restrict them from having free speech. They can talk all they want. They just have to admit who they are speaking for.

          • by PRMan ( 959735 )

            The part where our Constitution applies to our citizens.

            If THEY wanted to share their own speech as American citizens on this issue, then that would be different. If they are just replaying foreigners' comments, then that's not their speech.

            • by dryeo ( 100693 )

              Where does the American Constitution say that the Constitution only applies to American citizens (not counting the political stuff like voting or occupying office)? Most of it refers to people.

          • by KGIII ( 973947 )

            Meh... Ask the Democrats? They started the "Free Speech Zones" back in the 1980s. And no, before you ask, I'm actually further to the left of any of the elected Democrats. Well, except maybe Bernie.

      • Re:Well duh (Score:5, Funny)

        by Spy Handler ( 822350 ) on Monday November 02, 2015 @05:16PM (#50850693) Homepage Journal

        You are free to say whatever you want. However the gov't has unlimited moderation points and can put you at -1.

      • "possibly be compatible with the US Constitution" --The fundamental problem is that the US Constitution does not define "enemy". It defines "treason" in terms of "enemy", but it doesn't define "enemy". At this time Congress or the President has to officially declare some entity to be an enemy of the US, for the concept of "treason" to apply. It is not enough for that entity to declare the US to be an enemy --such a declaration is not automatically reciprocated. But perhaps it should be. Yet, even if it
        • by fnj ( 64210 )

          The fundamental problem is that the US Constitution does not define "enemy". It defines "treason" in terms of "enemy", but it doesn't define "enemy"

          Look at the exact passage. It is very simply worded.

          Treason against the United States, shall consist ONLY in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort.

          [emphasis added] It then goes on to very briefly state what is required to prove treason, given that acts have already been found as treasonable given the above, and li

      • by tnk1 ( 899206 )

        There is nothing about registering as a foreign lobbyist that is against the First Amendment. They won't get shut down, they just won't be able to pretend that they aren't rebroadcasting foreign propaganda.

        In any event, foreign governments aren't protected by the First Amendment. And speech which represents a clear and present danger to the US can be censored, so it stands to reason that you would be allowed to determine who might constitute that danger and ensure that you could monitor them for that prac

      • How can this possibly be compatible with the US Constitution? Anyone should be free to say whatever they want.

        Would you point out for me where, precisely, it says, anywhere, that the U.S. government is going to send someone in to shut them down? All it says is 'they must register', which is perfectly reasonable, especially considering that China is not particularly friendly to the U.S., and whose interests are at odds with our own. Starting a petition that says 'ShanghaiBill is a worthless piece of crap human being and should be killed outright' is someone exercising their freedom of speech, but are you going to be comfortable with that when 10000 people sign it?

  • so... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ganjadude ( 952775 ) on Monday November 02, 2015 @04:50PM (#50850415) Homepage
    The government is not even monitoring the radio waves in/near the capitol? Thats what I took from reading this. that is not a very smart thing
    • Re:so... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by MountainLogic ( 92466 ) on Monday November 02, 2015 @05:00PM (#50850525) Homepage
      Yes, the FCC is monitoring radio waves in the capitol and the rest of the country, but is less likely to monitor the content broadcast on the radio waves unless here is a complaint.
      • Yes, the FCC is monitoring radio waves in the capitol and the rest of the country, but is less likely to monitor the content broadcast on the radio waves unless here is a complaint.

        Well then, what's up with the NSA and the CIA?

        Perhaps they already knew about it and were monitoring the station for clandestine messaging? Just because the Department of Justice "says" they didn't know about these people doesn't meant that's a true statement.

        • Both the NSA and CIA have in their charter that they are for foreign intelligence. The NSA is also tasked with protecting domestic communications (of the government, not the citizens...)

          • Both the NSA and CIA have in their charter that they are for foreign intelligence.

            Yes, but you know from Snowden and other sources that it is not true.

      • Apparently it is difficult for them to separate Chinese communist propaganda and lies from the normal content coming out of DC.
      • Is broadcasting propaganda even illegal? Sure,maybe ISIS propaganda would count as "inciting violence" but just repeating the official Chinese government lines doesn't exactly do that. We're not at war with them, and it's not "material aid", so it definitely doesn't count as treason. It's rather distasteful but I actually don't see a reason to ban it, if all they're doing is repeating Chinese lies. (Lying is, after all, not intrinsically illegal)

        Really, it doesn't sound too different in kind than Radio Free

    • Re:so... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by jandrese ( 485 ) <kensama@vt.edu> on Monday November 02, 2015 @05:54PM (#50851029) Homepage Journal
      The FCC operates on a complaint driven model. They don't tend to notice until someone writes a letter. They don't have the budget to hire airwave cops to drive around looking for violations all over the country. As far as the FCC was concerned this was just another properly licensed radio station until someone complained.
    • It's radio... no one else is listening either.

    • More likely, they've known about it all this time and are using this as a bargaining chip for something else entirely, like, say, having an aircraft carrier not far from the Syrian proxy war. You simply can't trust any of the corporate media to not primarily represent its own interests.

    • You can be sure if anyone said "fuck" on the air the FCC would notice.

  • by Tablizer ( 95088 ) on Monday November 02, 2015 @04:50PM (#50850425) Journal

    Dummies, if you want to influence Washington, you don't put up radio stations, you bribe politicians directly. The Supreme Court made doing so legal.

    • by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) on Monday November 02, 2015 @05:01PM (#50850535)

      you bribe politicians directly. The Supreme Court made doing so legal.

      No they didn't. The Citizens United decision [wikipedia.org] prohibited the government from restricting donations to independent PACs, not directly to politicians. If you oppose Citizens United, you should explain why based on the facts. Misrepresenting it as something it is not, does not help your cause.

      • Misrepresenting it as something it is not, does not help your cause.

        Pot, meet Kettle. "Independent PACs," my ass!

        They only look "independent" because the candidate doesn't control them... just pay no attention to the man behind the curtain who's controlling both the PACs and the candidate.

        • "Independent PACs," my ass!

          Rick Perry was backed by PACs with millions of dollars in the bank. Yet he had to drop out, because he had no direct access to that money to pay his staff. So, yes, they are independent, and often push views that are uncomfortable to candidates.

    • They aren't trying to influence politicians. Politicians don't actually spend very much time anywhere NEAR DC if they can avoid it. Congress critters get in and leave ASAP, better be at home on the ranch.

      These broadcasts are trying to influence the general public ... into not thinking China is a bunch of douche bags.

      This sort of propaganda is notoriously effective, especially when it tells people something they want to hear.

      • Probably not the pols.... but probably directly targeting the bureaucracy and all of the NGO's and lobbyists sucking at the government teat in Washington. A little good will might go a long way. And if that good will happens to work at the department of commerce or the state department, well, so much the better.

        There's a reason the USA came up with Voice of America after all. And it wasn't to change the hearts and minds of politicians and dictators around the world.

  • Government officials didn't even know WCRW existed until Reuters told them about it. Nor did anyone else, it's a terrestrial radio station for god sakes.

  • by r-diddly ( 4140775 ) on Monday November 02, 2015 @05:06PM (#50850589)
    - avoids any criticism of [the US] - CHECK
    - critical of [Washington's] political enemies - CHECK
    - for example, a report on pro-democracy protests in [New York and nationwide] [in 2011] did not explain why people were in the streets, and said only that the demonstrations had "failed without support"

    On the other hand, one key difference is that the Chinese propagandists claim they're just passing along government propaganda, whereas the American ones deny they are.

    • We the sheeple. (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Would be good to have a website that gauged (with examples for their criteria and reasoning) all the biases and clear editorial intents of various media sources:

      NBC - Democratic Party 110%
      Fox - Republican Party 89%
      CNN - Democratic Party 77%
      ABC - Mostly Democratic Party 62%
      WCRW - Chinese Communist Party 110%
      New York Times - NSA/Pentagon/Democratic Party 22%/22%/87%

    • Hate to break it to you, but I'd say those demonstrations failed and the support was a bunch of spoiled brats to lazy to get off their ass and work who camped out with north face jackets and tents while they proceeded to basically show how they had no business being treated like anything other than the 5 year olds they were acting like.

      It was a joke.

  • The sudden rise in the D.C. of take out orders for Mandarin cuisine since 2009.

  • Is the station owned by an American? Did they pay their FCC licensing fees?

    If so, then who cares? Free speech, bitches. Anyone who has a problem with this doesn't deserve to live here.

  • This sounds like a twist on the old international broadcaster model -- Radio Free Europe and VOA are still running long after the cold war, and they used to pump information to countries behind the Iron Curtain. The difference is that China is buying up transmitter facilities in the target countries as opposed to blasting shortwave from a remote location.

    Realistically, I doubt this will have much local effect. It's not 1965 anymore, and there are much more effective ways of distributing propaganda. It just

    • by jandrese ( 485 )
      Willingness to partake in somewhat expensive and likely ignored propaganda is a winning long term strategy? Or it is just because they don't broadcast their political power struggles to the world?
    • by mjwx ( 966435 )

      Realistically, I doubt this will have much local effect. It's not 1965 anymore, and there are much more effective ways of distributing propaganda. It just sounds like the Party is trying to cover all their bases and sees an easy way to do so.

      This sounds more like old fashioned political posturing. The Chinese government knows that their propaganda (which is designed for the Chinese psyche and attitude) will have no effect what so ever on Americans. Especially Americans in Washington. Its just a message fr

    • by dbIII ( 701233 )

      And, an authoritarian regime is able to do whatever is necessary to achieve its goals.

      Yes but the downside, as seen with Mao, is that they are free to do just about anything even if it is a very stupid idea that kills millions of it's own citizens. That example keeps them thinking about their choices to an extent but there is far less correcting feedback like what happens in a Democracy.

  • How is this any different than the broadcasts that Voice of America does all over the world? If these broadcasts are objectionable, then the government should jam them. Oh, but we get so upset when other countries jam VOA......

  • If the station is owned by US Citizens, it is their first amendment right. That much was granted by our constitution.

    The Roberts Supreme Court has ruled they are eligible for far more than that. The owners, if they are US Citizens, will /should be able to make unlimited campaign contributions and also able to seek relief from any US Law that imposes substantial burden on their practice of religion.

    • It is all legal folks. Let us just say some US Citizens decide to bottle the sewage from Washington DC and decide to market it. Some outlandish business plan. But hey! some one could do it. Let us say some Chinese SOE (state owned enterprise) thinks it would have a huge market in China, and order several hundred million dollars worth of bottled sewage from this company. The owners of this company, all legal US Citizens, flush with cash made by this deal, after paying all due taxes, are free to spend it any
    • Yes, and with the Robert's court Citizen's United decision it is 100% certain that foreign governments are now making significant campaign contributions to US politicians. And just like other powerful and corrupt special interest groups, they get what they pay for. Can you say TPP?

      If the Feds can't figure out that Chinese propaganda is being broadcast on the airwaves, what are the chances that they will find out that money from China is being illegally channeled into US political funding?

      The Chinese, and

  • Convince the station owners to sell to that guy that bought the drug company and raised all the prices 2000 percent. Then let him charge for the propoganda. Profit!

  • This sounds like the setup for a quest line in Fallout 3.

  • by wonkey_monkey ( 2592601 ) on Monday November 02, 2015 @06:42PM (#50851443) Homepage

    An investigation by Reuters has uncovered a radio station located just outside Washington, D.C. that broadcasts dedicated Chinese propaganda to the U.S. capital and the surrounding area.

    If it takes an investigation by Reuters before anyone's even aware of your radio station, you're not doing a very good job.

  • There is a long history on the shortwave radio bands where stations setup for religious or cultural purposes ended up leasing air time to foreign broadcasters. Back in the late 1980s. there were several relay stations (i.e. paid stations just like this one in D.C.) in Canada and a large one in Okeechobee Florida. Among others, Radio Taiwan aka The Voice of "Free" China", Radio Japan, DW from Germany, the BBC World Service and others used them to target North American listeners.

    Nobody raised an eyebrow.

  • ...it ain't going to achieve much. China has an official English-language TV channel, which screens in at least some parts of China, is carried on satellites and is streamed online. It is unwatchably dull.

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