Mon, Jan 05, 2009 - Page 8 News List

PTS annoys both blue and green camps alike

By Lii Ding-tzann 李丁讚

Because of confrontation between the pan-blue and pan-green camps, the Public Television Service (PTS) has easily been branded as being either pro-blue or pro-green.

During the Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) rule, officials were discontented with PTS. For example, coverage of Chinese spouses, the red shirt demonstrations, the proposed Suhua Highway and China’s development often irritated the government. It believed that PTS was “pro-blue” because the station uncovered facts and monitored the government. But isn’t that precisely what the media are supposed to do?

The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) government is also annoyed by the PTS’ insistence on uncovering facts and monitoring the government and has attempted to interfere politically with the station’s operations. On Dec. 9, the legislature approved KMT legislative caucus whip Lin Yi-shih’s (林益世) proposal that the PTS budget undergo item-by-item approval by the legislature.

Perhaps Lin was discontented by PTS’ coverage of the government’s crackdown on demonstrations during Chinese envoy Chen Yunlin’s (陳雲林) visit, or its exposure and analysis of poor government performance. Such news reports can at most be considered “not pro-government.” To dark-blues, however, they are considered “pro-green.”

Thus, the KMT and the DPP follow the same approach when dealing with PTS, while the station itself has remained unchanged.

Taiwan is a nation divided into blue and green. Everything that isn’t blue is green and vice versa, and there is no room for people of other colors. Those who label themselves politically also label others, and so pro-blues will see anyone who isn’t blue as being green, and vice versa. By the same reasoning, anyone who is neither blue nor green will still be labeled. But shouldn’t we demand that the media stay objective, neutral and colorless? Although PTS is often labeled blue or green, that is a result of politicians’ prejudice rather than anything the station has done.

Aside from prejudice, shortsightedness is another problem. Most politicians are discontented with PTS because they look at it from their government’s perspective. Taking a long-term view, we see that the station is quite fair, as it does not compromise with those in power but treats them according to the same standards. Politicians criticize the station because they have not paid attention to its past performance.

This is also why Western governments evaluate their public television stations from a long-term perspective. The BBC reports to the British queen once every 10 to 15 years, and she forms an independent evaluation committee. Although it also reports to parliament, that report is only delivered at the end of each year and parliament can only offer suggestions. This is completely different from the prior approval proposed by Lin.

Before President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) came to office, he repeatedly pledged not to interfere politically with the media. But the KMT is now attempting to do precisely that, a phenomenon rarely seen in developed countries. Sadder still, PTS is a rare exception in Taiwan, because most electronic media are usually strongly pro-blue or pro-green.

Once the legal amendment is passed, there will be massive political interference in PTS’ operations. Although this may be advantageous to the pan-blue camp under a KMT government, the station may be forced to turn green if the green camp comes to power. Neither the KMT nor the DPP will be the winners and Taiwan will be the biggest loser.

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