Mon, Aug 23, 2004 - Page 8 News List

Media reform needs dose of realism

By Howard Shyr石世豪

Third, NCC members will come from relevant specialized fields, with technical members mainly coming from the Directorate General of Communications (電信總局) and the Department of Posts and Telecommunications (郵電司) under the Ministry of Transportation and Communications. The background of members is thus clearly delineated -- they will neither be a team of superheros made up of people with superhuman skills and flawless moral character, nor will they make up a dream team of stars. Given the allocation of personnel, a limited budget, organizational mergers, adjustments to responsibilities and a thousand other things that require attention, it is already a difficult enough task to build orderly market competition for the telecommunications, broadcasting and information sectors. Where would the NCC find the strength to also clean up the mess remaining from the martial law system?

Finally, and most importantly, the the social and economic conditions and political motivation to initiate media reform will dissipate if we relax. The FCC is basically the protector of the game rules for a "normal" market in a "normal" country. By comparison, the country's broadcasting sector has lived through a decades-long abnormal situation where it has been monopolized by party and state, and where the state apparatus has been treated as private property.

After the transition of power four years ago, the broadcasting industry was for the first time subjected to a comprehensive inspection. Today, we have reached the moment when President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) is about to realize his campaign promise of "persistent reform." He'll do this by making terrestrial television stations government-owned and privately managed, pushing political parties out of the media and putting the airwaves in better order. He will complete all these reforms in one fell swoop, thereby helping the NCC evade political problems. All that then remains will be an imaginary "normal" country with a "normal" vision of the confluence of telecommunications and the mass media. But in the end, it will all be but a beautiful dream.

Howard Shyr is an executive member of the Campaign for Media Reform.

Translated by Perry Svensson

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