Before she stepped down as Government Information Office (GIO) minister, Vanessa Shih (史亞平) announced that the GIO would soon submit draft guidelines handling visits to Taiwan and joint TV productions by actors and backstage creative and technical personnel from China to the Cabinet for examination and approval.
Concerned that they may be replaced by Chinese workers, members of the Performing and Arts Union have expressed strong opposition to the proposal. In view of this, I would like to share my assessment of the intentions of the proposal and the advantages it may bring.
Taiwanese media workers’ concerns that Chinese actors will take away Taiwanese actors’ jobs are not well founded. It is true that once the policy is implemented and restrictions relaxed, Chinese performers would come to Taiwan more often and in greater numbers. However, the policy relaxations proposed in the GIO’s draft guidelines only apply to co-productions.
In the past, policy restrictions meant that Taiwan-China co-productions had to be made outside Taiwan, giving Taiwanese actors little chance to get a piece of the action. Under the new relaxed policy, Taiwanese investors in a co-production would be able to demand that their Chinese partners shoot all or part of the scenes in Taiwan, or that they employ a certain proportion of Taiwanese crew members.
In view of this, the proposed deregulation would give Taiwan more opportunities for shooting movies and TV co-productions, which up until now have been made mostly in China.
So Taiwanese performers would actually have more work opportunities, not less.
When film and TV production teams come to Taiwan, it would be good for Taiwan in at least three ways.
First, it would be a boost for commercial outlets near shooting locations and create work opportunities for technical service providers at those locations.
Second, China’s State Administration of Radio, Film and Television has relaxed its programming regulations, allowing Taiwan-China TV co-productions to be screened at peak viewing times. This means that Taiwanese performers would not just get more job opportunities, but also raise their profile among Chinese audiences.
Third, by their nature as entertainment culture, co-produced movies and programs could contribute to cross-strait exchanges, promoting Taiwan’s democracy and freedom and highlighting its cultural diversity.
Looking ahead, however, it will take more to improve Taiwan’s film and TV industries than just Chinese investment. It is equally important to maintain those things that make Taiwanese media special — including a high degree of freedom.
With regard to education and training, Taiwan does not have enough talented film and TV professionals to meet the needs of the industry. Unless this situation is remedied, it will hinder the development of film and TV in Taiwan.
In terms of infrastructure, Taiwan no longer has a proper film studio precinct. This means that filmmakers can only work on borrowed external locations — and the application procedure can be tortuous.
Finally, the government should be aware that the removal of restrictions in cross-strait affairs must apply both ways. The government must ensure that policy changes bring new opportunities for development to Taiwan’s film and TV industries and that the livelihoods of Taiwanese actors and other media professionals will not be undermined.