Sun, Jan 28, 2007 - Page 8 News List

A need for more broadcast reform

By Kuan Chung-hsi ang,Lo Shih-hung 管中祥,羅世宏

A year ago, two reforms to Taiwan's broadcasting system were enacted that had the potential to change the local media landscape.

First, the legislature passed the Statue Regarding the Disposition of Government Shareholdings in the Terrestrial Television Industry (無線電視事業公股處理條例) in January last year. The Chinese Television System (CTS) was to transform into a publicly operated company, while Taiwan Indigenous TV, Hakka TV and Macroview TV were to be managed by the Taiwan Public Television Service Foundation.

At the same time, the legislature approved the first list of members of the National Communications Commission (NCC), which would replace the Government Information Office (GIO) as the overseer of broadcast media. Expectations were high that the NCC would resolve the disorder throughout the broadcast media industry and market and improve the industry's long history of poor service.

But a year later, the performances of the new NCC and old GIO have proven disappointing. The pace of media reform has not only ground to a halt, it has even gone into reverse.

The NCC has followed the old GIO tradition by sparking controversy in its regulation of broadcast media content. It has also been extremely passive and ineffective in managing the industry and market. Its failures have included allowing foreign capital to pour into the terrestrial TV network, its poor management of the sales of government shares in media outlets and the sales of media organizations controlled by the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT).

Management of KMT sales has been particularly problematic. Rumors of political manipulation and meddling by the purchasing media groups marred the sales of China Television Company (CTV), Taiwan Television Enterprise (TTV) and the KMT's Broadcasting Corporation of China (BCC).

After the sales, serious concerns arose over whether the influence of political parties, the government and the military had really been removed from the media. The sales also did nothing to resolve the concentration of controlling interests and of foreign ownership.

Not only did the NCC fail to demand that the involved businesses to make information on the transactions more transparent, but it basically allowed them to do whatever they please.

The NCC's inaction eventually allowed the media environment to become completely saturated by collusion between the government and businesses.

Second, the statute stripped the GIO of its regulatory authority, leaving it empowered only to guide and encourage broadcast media with financial incentives. The information office has not been able to offer a clear plan and explanation for its policy to help establish and develop public broadcast groups. The GIO has also failed to provide the funds for additional costs -- as required in Article 14 of the new statute -- that CTS would incur during its transformation, nor has the office actively pushed for amendments to the Public Television Law (公共電視法).

The GIO's failures made the establishment of public broadcasting companies just an empty formality. The CTS privatization has hit major roadblocks and Taiwan Broadcasting System (TBS, 公共廣電集團), which looked so promising at the beginning, is now on the brink of becoming a total failure.

Over the past year, the GIO and the NCC have been at loggerheads. Both organizations have played a part in the delays and reversals that deadlocked the nation's broadcast media reform process.

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