Sat, Jul 03, 2004 - Page 8 News List

Media management needs variety

By Howard Shyr石世豪

Chiang Hsia's (江霞) appointment as managing director of Chinese Television System (CTS) has kicked up quite a stir. Four years ago she joined the board of executives at Taiwan TV (TTV), doing much for the domestic TV and movie industry. I am particularly interested in the withdrawal of party politics from the media in this country, and in policies encouraging independence from government control. Grateful as I am for what Chiang did for TTV, I feel her appointment requires comment.

The victory of the Democratic Progressive Party in the 2000 election was followed by the first reorganization of the political structure of Taiwan's media. As a result, TTV's administrative board was filled with financial management professionals picked by the new government from state-run banks and holding companies, heads of high-tech firms, senior members of the media, pioneers from community universities and academics. They were joined by Chiang, a seasoned actress.

This eclectic group of professionals should have provided a palpable advantage to TTV in facing the challenges posed by fierce competition from other terrestrial TV stations, moving into digital technology and the need to invigorate the domestic TV and movie industry. On the contrary, due to the storm precipitated by the executive appointments and suspicions in the public and political spheres concerning how "green" the station had become, the new political hue of the board was clearly a cause for concern in society at large.

One reason for this may well be that the Taiwanese media is simply too set in its ways when it comes to political orientation, and successive waves of personnel changes have aroused wild suspicions. More importantly, though, TTV's new executive stars failed to deliver what was expected, under normal circumstances, from such a pool of talent.

Why is this? In addition to two seats on the board that were taken up by executives with links to the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), who formed their own political bubble within the proceedings, there were also a number of troublemakers creating an atmosphere akin to a pressure cooker. These consistently frustrated efforts to reform the system, stifled innovative programming and broadcasting and prevented the company from carrying out its responsibilities to the public.

Even though there were no real surprises in the news or entertainment programming and the digitization of the channel was slow and costly because of TTV's internal structure, many eyes were glued to the company's profits and whether or not the talk shows were leaning towards the green side of the political spectrum. The executives from the political and commercial fields, as well as Chiang, must have been exasperated at how little progress was being made considering how much they wanted to achieve.

Given that external factors and internal organization remain the same, I wonder how a similar mixture of professionals will fare at CTS? Perhaps political in-fighting could be kept to a minimum if the ministries of national defense and education, the major shareholders in CTS, can either directly or indirectly influence a large number of the seats on the board. This will do away with the problems of political point-scoring and vulnerability. Perhaps then these professionals from financial, hi-tech, media, educational and legal backgrounds, working with Chiang, can launch a counter-offensive against the hundreds of channels besieging CTS.

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