Sun, Jul 16, 2006 - Page 8 News List

Put the arts back into our media

By Chiu Kun-liang 邱坤良

The media have been a major motivating force behind the development of the contemporary literary and arts scene in the nation.

Take print media as an example. In the early days when newspapers were only 12 pages long, every daily and evening newspaper had its regular arts section, which was able to exert a far-reaching influence on the literary and arts environment. Meanwhile, television programs such as 60 Minutes, Beautiful Island (芬芳寶島) and Journey of Impression (印象之旅) were also very influential.

Following the end of martial law in 1987 and the lifting of restrictions on newspapers, several of the big papers responded to the page expansion by expanding their arts sections. In addition to reporting on literary and arts events, they also covered theater, movie, music and arts reviews, and even took part in arranging film festivals, exhibitions and performing arts activities.

Suddenly, newspaper features seemed to offer an overwhelming variety of interesting stories. The coverage not only cultivated readers' appreciation for literature and the arts, but also became indispensable in fostering the development of performing arts groups.

The image of newspaper corporate culture was also improved. Those who were arts reporters back then reminisce about those days, which are often described as "the belle epoque of the arts sections."

Other than realizing the ideals of media workers, the greatest significance of this belle epoque was its ability to highlight news media's role in social education.

Unfortunately, in the wider media environment, the arts sections have never been able to break through their weaker status compared to others. The vigorous competition among print media outlets that followed the end of martial law meant that the arts sections were eventually seen as expendable window dressing, and they quickly shrank to almost nothing.

Today, arts sections in major local newspapers are continuing to shrink, and when there are major news events, these sections are naturally the first ones to be cut.

Commercial electronic media generally outsources its arts and literary news, following the "placement marketing" model, rather than taking the initiative to run disinterested news stories about arts and literature.

Compared to the chaotic situation in news and business, the arts section of a newspaper should be free of ideological conflict between the pan-green and pan-blue camps, providing readers with cultural food for thought and highlighting the innovative aspects of media.

News stories take place at the same time as we engage in our daily activities, and culture and our daily lives are closely inter-related.

Life happens every day, and so do news incidents. Why shouldn't art and literary events be given the same weight as other news events and also be reported on a daily basis?

The current situation, in which features sections are likely to be scrapped at any moment, confuses readers. Moreover, certain arts section editors use their power to turn the section into a place to vent their personal anger by attacking certain people even for the slightest and most trivial matters.

This way of handling arts and literary reports is filled with bias, and it only lowers the fairness and significance of a newspaper's arts section.

Promoting cultural affairs is of course the responsibility of the Council for Cultural Affairs, but it is also the responsibility of other government agencies, the general public, the business sector, the mass media and other sections of our society.

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