Telum Talks To… Chang Cheng, the President of Radio Taiwan International

Telum Talks To… Chang Cheng, the President of Radio Taiwan International

We invited Chang Cheng, the President of Radio Taiwan International (RTI), to share with us his work after taking up the post, and how RTI connects Taiwan and the world by its multilingualism.

You have been President of RTI for several months. Can you briefly introduce your current role?
RTI is an old media with a history of more than 90 years, which is now marching towards the new media wave. It is my top priority at present to understand this long-standing and intricate unit. We are actually a private foundation, but nearly 80% of our funds come from the government. We enjoy the freedom of private organisations, but we also have our legal position to promote the value of Taiwan overseas. 

To achieve this, we can make good use of “shortwave”, an old long-distance transmission technology, to transmit radio waves overseas and even to places that the network cannot reach, through reflecting signals by the ionosphere. In mainland China, for example, the Internet is not easy to access, but shortwave broadcasting can come in handy since it cannot be completely blocked.

Such old technology can show its value in the new era instead, and it is not owned by many media. Most of Taiwan’s radio stations transmit signal inward using AM and FM. With these old devices, RTI can speak to the outside world. How to determine and adjust the direction of RTI, and to give better play to shortwave broadcasting technology to achieve its positioning, will be my main work during my three-year term of office.

In addition, RTI employs more than 200 people, so coordinating that workforce and seeking ongoing improvements and efficiencies is an additional focus for me. 

What do you want to achieve at RTI?
We hope that the image of RTI would be clearer after the organisation is well-adjusted and the content direction is accurate. If you ask people on the road in Taiwan about RTI, most of the locals actually have no idea about it, since RTI mainly speaks to the outside world, while locals in Taiwan can only reach us through our website. But we all live here, and we want them to know what we are doing. Therefore, I hope to strengthen the image of RTI’s “multilingual communication” to have a more distinct positioning. We are capable of 14 languages, so that we can speak on behalf of Taiwan to people who speak Mandarin, Taiwanese, Hakka, Cantonese, English, Japanese, Korean, French, Spanish, German, Russian, Thai, Indonesian or Vietnamese. For example, on the National Day of the Republic of China on 10th October, we interpreted the president’s speech live simultaneously into 15 languages, enabling more people around the world to hear the voice of Taiwan.

On my personal side, in addition to hoping to return to the media circle, I also want to give full play to my original abilities. The 4-Way Voice, which I founded in the past, was a small newspaper office with about 30 staff, operating in five languages. RTI now operates 14 languages at the same time, with top language talents from Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia and other places. In fact, many people in Taiwan speak these languages. Therefore, what I desire to achieve is to give full play to their abilities, help the hundreds of thousands of Southeast Asian immigrants in Taiwan, and even make them spontaneously promote Taiwan’s value and image after returning home.

Are your audience mostly foreign-language speakers?
Among our listeners from Taiwan, Indonesian and Thai listeners represent the highest proportion, mainly including migrant workers, followed by German and French listeners. As for overseas listeners, we also have listeners from Africa and Central America, such as Argentina, Mexico and other third world countries that speak Spanish or French. The locals are within our audience scope and they would sometimes send us letters and emails.

“Multilingualism” has been your focus throughout your career. What makes you so attentive to this issue?
In the beginning, I felt it was unfair. People who chose to work in the media are most likely driven by a sense of justice, believing that the industry can help serve justice. Taiwan is a Chinese-speaking society. No matter how hard they try, it can be difficult for non-native Chinese speakers to reach our level of proficiency. They can be teased for not speaking Chinese well. I feel that this group of people is being treated unfairly because they cannot speak Chinese like a local. Then I reflected on why I did not try to get to know them better, and felt that this lack of understanding was inappropriate. So I studied at the Southeast Asian Institute and founded 4-Way Voice later, and discovered that I could use the media to help these people.

The way to help is to print the newspapers in their languages, so they do not lag behind the locals on obtaining information. Take the elections in Taiwan as an example. Some of our foreign language friends may not know the candidates, so we keep them updated by providing them with brief translations of Taiwanese news. Taiwan boasts the environment and conditions that enable us to run this publication and obtain substantial social support, which proves that Taiwan is still open and inclusive.

Which kind of PR opportunities do you welcome?
We have more cooperation with advertising companies, and most of their targets are foreign friends in Taiwan, including migrant workers. For example, if the telecommunications company wants to sell phone cards, the company will promote it through our foreign language programs. In terms of public relations cooperation, we can deal with most industries such as energy, economy, international trade, health care, electric power, boutique manufacturers, etc. as long as they are positive. We can be engaged in audio-visual and exclusive interviews, and we welcome cooperation opportunities.

I think RTI is a good window for foreigners to get to know Taiwan. They can speak their own language, and then we will translate it into what Taiwanese can understand.

Any advice for new joiners eager to enter the radio industry?
If you are fascinated by sound and have some bold ideas, the radio station will be the best place to realise it, and there is still huge room for imagination to play. Especially nowadays, when everyone is infatuated with films and vision, few people are engaged on sound. I think both vision and hearing are of equal importance. 

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