Tue, Nov 23, 2004 - Page 10 News List

Shopping stations may be restricted

BROADCASTING The government is concerned that the large number of prospective entrants to the lucrative market may squeeze out other content


The lucrative TV-shopping market's growth may face barriers, as the government is mulling restricting the number of channels for shopping services to between six and eight.

Concerned that the large number of prospective shopping service operators may squeeze out other content providers, the Government Information Office (GIO) is proposing to limit the number of channels in accordance with the Cable Television Law (有線電視法).

The GIO voiced its concerns yesterday at a public hearing on regulation of cable channels.

According to the Cable Television Law, the number of full-time advertising channels should be about one-tenth of total channels, excluding government channels, which translates into about eight channels.

Previously, academics had suggested retaining six advertising channels, said Lee Lien-chuan (李連權), a counselor with the GIO.

The final decision will be made after negotiating with shopping service and cable providers, Lee said, adding that if the proposal is passed by a review committee, the policy will come into effect next year.

Currently, Eastern Home Shopping Network (東森購物), an arm of Eastern Multimedia Corp (東森集團), has five shopping channels.

The company expects to rake in NT$30 billion (US$920 million) in annual sales this year, a 30-fold increase from four years ago when the service was launched.

Eyeing the significant growth potential, Fubon Financial Holding Co (富邦金控), Uni-President Enterprise Corp (統一企業), the Breeze Center (微風廣場) and Chinatrust Commercial Bank (中國信託) are planning to jump on the bandwagon.

As Eastern Home Shopping Network occupies five channels and this could block new players, the Fair Trade Commission is investigating whether this results in unfair competition, said Chen Chi-yuan (陳紀元), vice chairman of the commission.

The commission also participated in the hearing yesterday.

But Randy Lee (李傳偉), vice president of Eastern Home Shopping Network, asked the government to take a hands-off approach.

"TV has become one of the most favored platforms for buying a wide range of products and services," Lee said. "Unlike other advertisers, we also provide shipping, after-sale service and product guarantees."

The GIO also plans to restrict channel operators from over-selling time to advertisers and cutting into the broadcast of original programs, the GIO's Lee said.

Violators will face a maximum NT$3 million fine, he said.

Another major change discussed at the hearing concerned public welfare channels.

The GIO has proposed requiring cable providers use channels 2 to 17, while channels 18 to 25 would be reserved for non-commercial programming for children and families.

The change is set to become effective next year as well.

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