Sen. Ted Cruz (R., Texas) is set to unveil legislation that would stop China's Communist Party from exploiting loopholes in U.S. laws that critics say have enabled it to beam propaganda into America through a radio station connected to a state-controlled press organ, according to a copy of the legislation exclusively obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.
Cruz's bill, the first of its kind, was sparked by the purchase of a radio station connected to Phoenix TV—an outlet owned by the Chinese government—that is now using a broadcast tower in Mexico to beam Chinese-language propaganda into the United States. The Mexican station was purchased in 2018 by an investment group with ties to China and is now running communist propaganda produced by Phoenix TV.
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Phoenix TV drew the ire of Republican lawmakers and others earlier this year when one of its reporters confronted President Donald Trump during a White House briefing about the coronavirus pandemic. Lawmakers such as Cruz raised objections to the White House granting access to a reporter working for an adversarial regime.
Phoenix TV has used Mexican radio towers to skirt U.S. laws barring the dissemination of foreign propaganda in America and broadcast state propaganda throughout Southern California, sources said.
The effort to shut down Phoenix TV's radio affiliate is just one of many current efforts in Congress to combat Chinese propaganda in light of its efforts to deceive the world about the origin and spread of coronavirus. Other legislative efforts seek to hold China financially accountable for allowing the virus to spread across the globe.
Cruz's bill would close existing loopholes in U.S. law by banning the Federal Communications Commission from granting licenses to any person who intends to change the language of the station they are purchasing. In Phoenix TV's case, the outlet's affiliates applied for an FCC license and then began broadcasting propaganda in Chinese once it assumed control of the Mexico-based radio towers, located near Tijuana.
While the FCC has not granted the license, the station has continued to operate on a temporary license. After initially assuming control of the station, the new owners switched it from Spanish to Chinese-language programming; it is now heard across Southern California.
If approved, Cruz's bill would ensure the FCC does not grant the station a license, effectively shutting down Phoenix TV's U.S. broadcasts.
"China should not be able to set up shop in Mexico and blanket America with propaganda. Every year, the [Chinese Communist Party] spends billions of dollars purchasing news outlets and waging information warfare to extend the reach of its propaganda and whitewash the unflattering and politically inconvenient truths about its totalitarian regime," Cruz told the Free Beacon.
"We are seeing this play out right now as news outlets across the country parrot Chinese talking points about the coronavirus pandemic—a pandemic that could have been prevented," Cruz said. "I look forward to introducing this legislation when Congress returns and closing FCC loopholes that allow China to wage their information warfare from across the border in Mexico."
Phoenix TV has been exploiting an FCC loophole that permits content produced in the United States to be broadcast back into the United States by radio towers more powerful than those located within the country. Phoenix TV, which is headquartered in California, produces its content domestically and then uses the powerful Mexican station to ensure it reaches American ears in California.
Cruz's bill would ban the FCC from granting licenses for broadcasts from across the Mexican border when the new owners seek to change the language of the station they are purchasing—unless the FCC can guarantee they were free from foreign government influence.
The bill would also apply to those seeking to purchase radio towers in Canada that are capable of broadcasting into the United States.
In 2018, Cruz raised concerns with the FCC over the purchase and control of Mexico's XEWW AM 690 station by H&H Capital, an investment group that the senator says is entangled with Phoenix TV and China. He called on the FCC not to issue a license the station needs to operate.
H&H is owned in large part by Vivian Huo, a U.S. citizen and Beijing native who formerly worked for several Chinese-run media outlets.
"The actual beneficiary owner of this deal is reportedly Phoenix Satellite TV," Cruz wrote in 2018. "Though ‘Phoenix Satellite TV' does not appear anywhere in the H&H Group's application, the address listed for programing content—3810 Durbin St., Irwindale, CA 91706—is a building owned by Phoenix Satellite TV USA."
The bill specifically seeks to target schemes like those employed by Phoenix TV and its affiliates.
Editor's Note: This post was originally published at 6:15 p.m.