Fri, Apr 06, 2007 - Page 8 News List

TVBS video highlights stations' basic flaws

By Cao Changqing 曹長青

The broadcast of a video of a gangster delivering a death threat taken by TVBS Nantou reporter Shih Chen-kang (史鎮康) has caused quite a stir. TVBS committed at least five major journalistic errors in this incident.

First, TVBS should not have broadcast footage of a gangster delivering threats. Its management stressed that it was not aware that the video had been filmed by one of its reporters. But shouldn't have aired the video even if it had been sent in by the gangster himself, because a media outlet should not be used as a tool for intimidating the public.

US media outlets also compete for exclusives, but they will not broadcast threatening videos sent by terrorists. Al-Jazeera's frequent broadcasts of videos of terrorists beheading their hostages drew the ire of the entire US media, who refused to become mouthpieces for terrorists.

The fundamental problem is not that TVBS was not aware of where the video came from, but rather its lack of understanding that the media has a responsibility toward the public.

Second, the station lacks a fundamental ability to determine what is newsworthy. None of its managers questioned how a gangster could produce such a professional video. Nor did the general manager Lee Tao (李濤), raise any questions after the footage was aired -- proof again that the station lacks fundamental news evaluation skills.

Third, TVBS's training of its reporters is ineffectual, and consequently they have no journalistic ethics. When the uproar over the video erupted, Shih complained that it was his superiors who had decided to broadcast the video so he shouldn't have to bear full responsibility. However, Shih concealed the fact that he had shot the video.

Fourth, TVBS does not compete for exclusives, but is rather a mouthpiece for the deep blues. The station tried to dismiss the incident as the result of a reporter trying to get an exclusive. However, this was a scandal waiting to happen given the station's strong pan-blue ideology.

The scandal over New York Times reporter Jayson Blair's plagiarism and fabrication of stories a few years ago was directly related to the longstanding ideological connivance of the paper's then editor-in-chief.

Former CBS news anchor Dan Rather also had to apologize for relying on allegedly bogus documents for a report on US President George W. Bush's National Guard service.

TVBS has always taken a deep-blue point of view and rejoices in gloating over Taiwan's misfortunes. By broadcasting the gangster footage, the station could highlight the deteriorating public security situation and the impotence of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).

In his talk show, Lee allows deeply inflammatory statements against the DPP to slip by. Small wonder that in an environment where ideology overrides every other concern, journalists dance to the same deep-blue tune and fabricate news.

Fifth, TVBS does not take responsibility for its mistakes. If a similar scandal happened to a Western media outlet, the editor-in-chief would resign immediately. Faced with widespread criticism, Lee eventually resigned as general manager of TVBS. The fact that Lee concurrently was general manager and host of a political talk show meant that the station's impartiality and objectivity was compromised early on, and the talk show had a clear political point of view.

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