Thu, Nov 22, 2007 - Page 8 News List

Media suffer from politics, money

By Hsu Yu-fang 許又方

Several domestic media outlets have recently broadcast news of individuals publicly provoking President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) and Vice President Annette Lu (呂秀蓮). These stories were presented with a high degree of seriousness, with such headlines as: "The government doesn't understand public suffering" and "The government turns a deaf ear to public miseries."

Such news aims to tell the public that while the local economy is on the verge of a recession, the government prefers to ignore the problem.

Most people may be happy to see the media showing "concern for people's standard of living and bad political decisions."

However, after indignant and critical reports about the economic crisis and the government's failure to sympathize with public hardships while the economy "stagnates," there was a news story about a well-known department store celebrating its anniversary.

News anchors put away their serious demeanor and happily reported how the department store was packed with customers and how its owner vowed to bring in more than NT$5.6 billion (US$170 million) in revenues within a few days.

In order to convince viewers, the news also broadcast footage of customers falling over one another at the store, leading to confusion as to whether Taiwan is suffering economically or if its purchasing power is growing.

Some may argue that this coverage is a result of calls for balanced news coverage. But if the news is supposed to be balanced, then news anchors should only report the facts without adding unnecessary critical opinions about politics or use promotional language that should only be seen in advertisements.

One minute the public is is treated to a show of how Taiwan is indeed in a difficult economic situation and the government doesn't care. The next minute it is told that Taiwan's economic power is growing, which would seemingly endorse Chen's statement that it is strange that "those who claim not to be able to survive economically still find time to attend exhibitions."

Are TV stations suffering from mental confusion?

These more or less contradictory news reports are the consequence of the interference of external forces in the media. Because of political interference, media outlets have become the mouthpieces of political organizations. And because of financial incentives, they are now in the marketing business.

In other words, these news media don't really care about the "suffering public" and fail to look into the real social problems. Frankly speaking, their only concern is their own interests -- the bottom line.

So how are these media organizations qualified to criticize other people?

It is true that Taiwan is experiencing an economic slowdown, but is it a global problem or merely caused by a single "terrible party?"

Are soaring commodity prices the result of an imbalance between supply and demand or caused by human factors?

Crude oil prices have climbed nearly 300 percent since 2000, causing other costs to follow.

The state-controlled CPC Corp, Taiwan, however, has only increased its per-liter gas price to slightly more than NT$30 and is still able to maintain its budget of "legal surplus."

How it is that while many people are complaining about not being able to maintain their businesses, some stores can sell their products at record-low prices?

How can some red-bean pancake store owners make millions of dollars a year despite soaring vegetable prices?

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