President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) assumed office among high hopes last month. In his inaugural speech, he said that he would “never interfere with the media.”
This can be interpreted in two ways.
Ma could be making an entirely pointless statement, as anyone knows that the government should not interfere with the media at will, though he might be attempting to ingratiate himself with the media, and especially media bosses, by saying so.
Or Ma could have made the statement because the government has no media or broadcasting policies, and perhaps the perfunctory statement was meant to cover up a lack of media-related policies.
A tally of the media policies proposed by Ma amounts to three related claims: a proposal during the election campaign to create a “Hoklo program production center”; the aforementioned promise to “never interfere with the media” during his inauguration speech; and the “national Hakka broadcasting station” he said would be incorporated into the Taiwan Broadcasting System (TBS), as proposed by Council of Hakka Affairs Chairman Huang Yu-chen (黃玉振).
The “Hoklo programs production center” proposal lacks any real content. If it refers to the regionalization of production resources within TBS to support the founding of a southern station, then concrete plans and budgets should be provided. Without more detail, it’s difficult to figure out what Ma meant when he made the proposal.
The idea of a “national Hakka broadcasting station” is more concrete and worthy of encouragement.
It only awaits implementation by Ma and the Council for Hakka Affairs. However, media policy cannot give preference to the Hakka population alone.
Speaking as a Hakka, I, like many other Hakka, simply desire equal rights — not special treatment. From this angle, Taiwan also needs national broadcasting stations for Aboriginals, new immigrants, foreign residents, women, children and workers.
But how Ma plans to turn TBS into a truly public system, make government-operated broadcasting stations public and incorporate them into TBS — while transforming TBS into a genuinely national television and radio medium — is a more important and fundamental issue in media policy.
However, it is not enough to incorporate broadcasting services into TBS. The TBS budget should be greatly expanded, and the privately owned shares of the Chinese Television System (CTS) should be purchased and donated to TBS, so that CTS can become a public television station.
Without these moves, the media chaos caused by the long-term dominance of commercial broadcasting is not going to fix itself.
Ma should not refrain from interfering with the media, which would mean shirking the responsibility of improving the media environment.
Instead, he should actively interfere and strive to strengthen the public media sector, which is inadequate compared with Japan, Korea or European countries.
Ma should make commercial media bear more responsibility by increasing the proportion of domestically produced programs and ensuring basic labor rights for creative individuals employed in the media and broadcasting sector.
These are important, overdue policies that Ma should immediately declare, promote and implement.
Lo Shih-hung is the convener of the Campaign for Media Reform and an associate professor of communications at National Chung Cheng University.
TRANSLATED BY ANGELA HONG
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