Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. is in trouble with the Chinese communist government for selling black market satellite equipment and programming to Chinese subjects. It sounds like the company is bending the rules to make money, but Mr. Murdoch has made his distain for totalitarian regimes pretty plain:

Rupert Murdoch's relationship with Beijing started on the wrong foot. The Australian-born mogul declared in 1993 that satellite-television networks, like the Hong Kong--based Star TV venture that he had purchased, would pose "an unambiguous threat to totalitarian regimes everywhere."

The company still plays ball with the ChiComs because they need to collect subscription fees if they want to make money, but the beautiful thing about satellite television is that the main infrastructure is in space, and can't be regulated by the Chinese. So News Corp. moved into China's extensive black market.

News Corp.'s efforts to climb through loopholes in China were brazen, according to Jiang Hua, a former News Corp. distribution manager in China. Despite regulations forbidding direct sales, Jiang, who left the company 18 months ago after a disagreement with his boss, says he distributed News Corp. channels ranging from National Geographic (in which it has a stake in Asia) to an MTV-like music channel called Channel V. Two former News Corp. executives confirm Jiang's story. Buyers were cable-TV networks from the Tibetan Plateau to the South China Sea. "News Corp. called what I did gray-market distribution," he says, "but it wasn't gray. It was black."

Jiang says payments were channeled through a shell company, Beijing Hotkey Internet, which received nearly $1.5 million a year in illicit payments from cable operators starting in 2002. Jiang and another former News Corp. employee told TIME that cable operators occasionally paid with briefcases of cash.

I see this as a noble effort to bring the outside world into the homes of oppressed Chinese. China is growing fast, and will undoubtedly be a match for the United States in a few decades. It's essential that when that time comes China isn't still under the bootheel of fascists.



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