Wed, Jan 10, 2001 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: Cable TV deal a mockery

Every time the end of a legislative session draws near, all of Taiwan holds its breath wondering what new monster the legislature will bring forth from its marathon reviews.

The latest session certainly did not fail these anticipations. While public attention was centered around the government's budget review and amendments to the Criminal Procedure Law, lawmakers who run cable TV businesses took advantage of the chaos and pushed through an amendment to the Cable Television Law (有線電視法). The amendment took away from local governments the power to supervise cable TV businesses and set fee rates. Now the power is back in the hands of the central government, whose ability to properly manage the cable TV business nationwide is seriously in doubt. The amendments have infuriated local governments.

Lawmakers have shown no qualms about tampering with the laws in the pursuit of self-interest. The amendments allow cable TV businesses to escape supervision by local governments. Now lawmakers who run cable TV businesses can use their legislative and budget review powers to pressure the Government Information Office (GIO), so that these businesses can change their channels and fee rates at will. In other words, they can now ignore the opinions of local governments and consumers. This is certainly an example of vicious legislation. The Taiwan electorate should bear this in mind and consign these self-interested lawmakers to the political garbage bin in the next legislative election.

King Pu-tsung (金溥聰), director of Taipei City's Information Department, has severely criticized the GIO over the amendments. King has accused it of conspiring with the cable TV businesses and called GIO Director-General Su Tzen-ping (蘇正平) "out of the loop" for not launching negotiations with the lawmakers over the amendments. King has also demanded that the Executive Yuan request a reconsideration of the amendment at the legislature.

While it is only proper and reasonable for King to oppose the amendments, he has appeared a bit too exacting in his tirade against the central government. His criticism of the GIO management sounded like a personal attack, which prompted an unhappy response from Su: "He sounded as if he were my superior." As we all know, the government belongs to a minority party in the legislature. The Cabinet suffered like a punching bag in the legislature during the review of the budget and workweek legislation, and the Criminal Procedure Law.

Fourteen out of Taiwan's 22 counties and cities oppose the amendments to the Cable Television Law. If King had communicated with those other local governments -- especially if he had teamed up with Kaohsiung City mayor and DPP Chairman Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) -- he could have achieved far more in what has appeared to be a partisan dispute. If Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) really wants to get to the crux of the problem, he should first seek support from KMT Chairman Lien Chan (連戰), who also opposes the amendments, and let the KMT fix the legislation written and passed by KMT lawmakers in the first place.

From the outset, wrong strategy and a lack of proper communication has turned opposition to cable TV amendments into a political struggle.

Whatever happens regarding the cable TV law in the future, the KMT's attitude is the key to the solution. Only Mayor Ma, being a member of the KMT Central Standing Committee himself, will be able to persuade the KMT.

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