Sun, Jan 01, 2006 - Page 8 News List

It's best to think before uprooting a TV station

By Kuan Chung-hsiang 管中祥

Government Information Office (GIO) Minister Pasuya Yao (姚文智) recently said the reason the government wants to relocate television network CTS to either Tainan or Kaohsiung is because most of the nation's media outlets are based in Taipei.

He said the government could not ignore the fact that people in southern Taiwan also have a right to media access, deserved a southern perspective in the media and need to cultivate their own media professionals and broadcasting culture.

I am delighted at the GIO's proposition, but also have many questions about how this can be implemented.

There is no denying that the disparity between northern and southern Taiwan remains a problem. This situation prevents people from appreciating the many characteristics of this island. This is not only ridiculous for a nation with more than 100 TV channels, but is also detrimental to the cause of establishing a pluralistic homeland with distinct identities.

Do we need to relocate CTS to southern Taiwan to satisfy the needs of southerners and better reflect their viewpoints?

An industry cannot thrive without the assistance of other industries. We really wonder if the GIO has come up with a comprehensive plan to facilitate this move south. In moving CTS, do we already have the necessary facilities such as office space, studios and land at our disposal? Skilled labor is also a prerequisite. Even if CTS is able to relocate to the south, will all of its staff be willing to relocate? If they are unwilling, will there be a budget to hire and train new staff? Or should the company collaborate with departments of mass communications in local colleges?

In addition, will the Public Television Foundation be able to provide the funds required for the relocation of CTS? Will the government arrange a budget to handle the move? While Yao has made the proposal, he has not outlined how it is to be achieved.

There should be a balance in terms of the allocation of media resources. However, the government should also seek to propose a detailed plan and arrange a budget. We should also consider if moving CTS south is the only way of resolving the inequality of media access and other problems. A simple act of legislation mandating the relocation is clearly insufficient.

If the government wants to use the Public Television Foundation to solve the media imbalance between north and south, it should wait until after CTS has turned itself into a public service broadcaster before taking any further action. A public broadcasting and television law would actively encourage the development of media resources around the country, and follow the example of regional broadcasters in other nations, which are able to interact closely with local communities and understand local needs. News and other programs can be broadcast through a national public television service.

It is not the case that Taiwan has never had local broadcasters. In 1993, when cable operations were deregulated, many local stations sprang up around the country, but lack of effective policy meant that these quickly became absorbed into national broadcasting networks, purveying an undifferentiated diet of "national" opinion.

This result was at odds with the original intention. Yao's proposal to relocate CTS to the south is but one of many ways to give people in southern Taiwan better access to the media. The most urgent task for the government at the moment should be the creation of local broadcasters both in name and in fact.

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