Chinese Radio Targets Expats And Those Learning Mandarin

The airwaves in Houston are filled with ethnic programming — and not just in Spanish. There are radio shows for the Expat Indian community, as well as Vietnamese programs and Chinese broadcasts — all targeting specific audiences. For example, the Chinese community is served on radio and television with programs in Mandarin and English.

Tuning up and down the AM dial in the Houston area, there's more than the usual mix of news, sports talk and Rush Limbaugh. Broadcasting on 1540, KGBC rebroadcasts China Radio International, the state-owned broadcaster from Beijing. CRI describes itself as the BBC of China.

"Today, two hours of news, current affairs and opinion, brought to you by 'Beyond Beijing'..."

It's programming that — until recently — could only be heard on international shortwave or over the internet. But now, the Chinese government is leasing time on this Galveston-based station.

"This is 'People in the Know'..."

The broadcasts are part of a $6.6 billion effort by the Chinese government to expand its worldwide influence. That includes television. On television, there's channel 55.5, branded as ITV — one of six HD channels on KTBU, mainly presenting round-the-clock news from China Central Television, in Mandarin.

(Chinese television audio)

But there's also an AM station that targets the over 200,000 Chinese expats in the Houston area. It's AM 1320 Texas Chinese Radio.

(Chinese radio audio)

Judd Huang is with AM 1320 Texas Chinese Radio.

"Our programming is like a variety show, and our local programming (is) based on interviews. We talk about immigration, we talking about medical, we talk about sports. And then we also do local news reports."

Huang says listener reaction is generally positive.

"Usually our comments are very nice, sincere, majority of time, because of information we share. We focus on how to break between American society to the Chinese people who just came here. We just did a show on social security benefits-- how you apply. And we also so interview with (the) Houston Police Department talking about online traps and different other stuff." 

Texas Chinese Radio sells advertising based on the fact that 86 percent of Chinese consumers speak English, but over 60 percent still prefer native language broadcast media. The station finds that even non-Chinese listeners tune in.

"Well, last time went to the International Festival, we had a booth. We found out there's a lot of Caucasian, Africa-American or other races come and talk with us. They listen to us. They were in the process of learning Chinese or their wives are Chinese and actually hear us."

The Chinese population in Texas grew by 67.4 percent between 1990 and 2000.

Bio photo of Ed Mayberry

Ed Mayberry

Local Anchor, All Things Considered

Ed Mayberry has worked in radio since 1971, with many of those years spent on the rock 'n' roll disc jockey side of the business...