A friend living in the US once asked why the Taiwanese government spends so much money on paid advertising every year.
I couldn't immediately think of an answer to give him, so he provided one himself.
"There would be no need to waste government funds on media space and time if government officials were professionals capable of facing the media to explain and defend their policies," he argued.
The heart of the problem is, in other words, that Taiwanese officials lack professionalism and are incapable of defending their policies in person.
I was reminded of this exchange after the Financial Supervisory Commission's (FSC) takeover of the The Chinese Bank (
FSC Chairman Shih Jun-ji (
From the perspective of professional public relations management, the FSC's approach followed government policy principles, and the fact that the chairman personally came out to explain what was happening met the requirements of the media that wanted access to leading officials.
From this perspective, Shih is an uncommonly responsible government leader.
He differed from past leaders who instead have wasted government funds on media time and space to avoid blame because they were afraid of meeting the media to address public doubts over unclear decision making.
From this perspective, the FSC's behavior during this period has been commendable.
My friend told me that when the US was hit by mad cow disease, leaders of US government health agencies immediately called press conferences to answer questions personally and in a knowledgeable and professional manner.
Then, for several weeks after, press conferences were held continuously by officials to explain possible problems and how to prevent those problems from arising.
Anyone who wanted to know more could get first hand information from government officials via the media.
He said he had never seen the health authorities buy advertising time and space, and that this instead helped calm the public and avoid any possible panic.
But what do our ministers do when something major happens?
Do they or their public relations officers go to the media to explain the details to the general public or is their only thought to buy media time and space instead of meeting the press to explain and protect their policies?
Statistics show that the central government has spent well over NT$1 billion (US$30 million) on media time and space over the past few years.
Because advertising has been declining, many media outlets have given up on their responsibility to monitor the government in order to compete for its advertising dollar. This has turned the government into the country's biggest advertiser.
Preposterous as this may sound, it serves to highlight the lack of professionalism and responsibility among government officials.
As long as incapable government officials use taxpayers' money to line the pockets of media organizations, the media will feel indebted and neglect its duty to monitor the government.
The big loser is the public.
This is why it is such bad practice for the government to buy media time and space.
If the financial turmoil set off by the run on The Chinese Bank (
Chen Ping-hung is a professor at the Graduate Institute of Mass Communications, National Taiwan Normal University.
Translated by Perry Svensson
US President Donald Trump on Thursday issued executive orders barring Americans from conducting business with WeChat owner Tencent Holdings and ByteDance, the Beijing-based owner of popular video-sharing app TikTok. The orders are to take effect 45 days after they were signed, which is Sept. 20. The orders accuse WeChat of helping the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) review and remove content that it considers to be politically sensitive, and of using fabricated news to benefit itself. The White House has accused TikTok of collecting users’ information, location data and browsing histories, which could be used by the Chinese government, and pose
Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) at a ceremony on July 30 officially commissioned China’s BeiDou-3 satellite navigation system. The constellation of satellites, which is now fully operational, was completed six months ahead of schedule. Its deployment means that the People’s Republic of China (PRC) is now in possession of an autonomous, global satellite navigation system to rival the US’ GPS, Russia’s Glonass and the EU’s Galileo. Although Chinese officials have repeatedly sought to reassure the world that BeiDou-3 is primarily a civilian and commercial platform, US and European military experts beg to differ. Teresa Hitchens, a senior research associate at the University of
There are few areas where Beijing, Taipei, and Washington find themselves in agreement these days, but one of them is that the situation in the Taiwan Strait is growing more dangerous. Such a shared assessment quickly breaks down, though, when the question turns to identifying sources of rising tensions. Several Chinese experts and officials I have consulted with recently have argued that Beijing’s increasingly belligerent behavior in the Taiwan Strait is driven mostly by fear. According to this narrative, Beijing is worried that unless it puts a brake on Taiwan’s move away from the mainland, Taiwan could be “lost” forever. They
Former president Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) this week came under fire over his speech at a Rotary Club meeting in Taipei on Monday, when he said that Beijing’s military strategy toward Taiwan was “to let the first battle be the last.” If China started a cross-strait war, it would end quickly, without time for other nations to react, he said in his “Cross-Strait Relations and Taiwan Security” address, criticizing President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) for saying that she hoped other nations would come to Taiwan’s aid in Beijing’s first wave of attacks. A president should prevent war from happening, not talk about how