Sat, Jun 13, 2009 - Page 8 News List

JOHNNY NEIHU'S NEWS WATCH: Chaiwan: an unholy portmanteau

By Johnny Neihu 強尼內湖

Alas, the honeymoon is finally over.

Before you jump to conclusions, I’m not about to go off on capitulator-in-chief Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九). For me, his honeymoon was over about five minutes into his inauguration speech last year, about the time he said: “The Republic of China is now a democracy respected by the international community.”

Yeah, right.

The coupling I’m referring to is what is probably the strangest dalliance since Britain’s jug-eared, eternal heir-to-the-throne Prince Charles allegedly got it on with super-schnozzed US crooner Barbara Streisand (don’t believe me? Check the Internet, it know all). The oddest couple, indeed, since Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau.

The unholy union I’m concerned about is Hong Kong-Taiwan media mogul and Chicom baiter Jimmy Lai (黎智英) and media scholar and occasional extremely-close-confidante-of-the-president King Pu-tsung (金浦聰), who got together in February when Lai decided to offer King the position of chief executive officer of Next Media group’s new TV station.

Apparently “the King and Lai” have fallen out after the emergence of professional differences reminiscent of Yul Brynner and Deborah Kerr in that movie with a similar name.

The process of “getting to know you” has been troublesome, according to those in the know, and the two are finding themselves at loggerheads.

The crux of the disagreement, so say TV and Web news reports, stems from Lai’s desire to use the gory, no-holds-barred graphics that are a trademark of Apple Daily news coverage as the centerpiece of his new 24-hour cable news station.

Jimmy wants animated graphics to give viewers a fuller picture of news events, while King’s conservative streak is flashing a red warning light.

Then again, some would say it was a match-up that was always destined to fail.

Lai, an elementary school dropout from a poor Guangzhou family who made his fortune in the clothing business after sneaking into Hong Kong on a boat aged 12, founded his own establishment-challenging media empire based on lowest-common-denominator tabloid journalism.

King, a thoroughbred scion and cousin of the last Qing emperor Pu Yi (溥儀), is a journalism professor and former deputy Taipei mayor who moves between the worlds of academia and politics with a smoothness that makes his buddy Ma look like a drunken teenager fumbling with his girlfriend’s bra strap.

Chalk and cheese.

Now, news of the disagreement may lead the cynics among us to ponder whether King was being used by anti-Lai forces all along as a Manchurian candidate — with the aim of scuppering Lai’s much anticipated, and by some much feared, venture into television.

Given his ancestry he is certainly qualified.

But others reckon they know King better.

Commenting on the partnership to Kyodo News in a February interview, Taichung Mayor Jason Hu (胡志強), who had a taste of Lai-style journalism in 2006 when the Apple Daily ran that front-page photo of his severely injured wife (she later recovered, minus an arm) being wheeled into hospital following a car accident, said: “I still have my reservations about Jimmy Lai ... but [King] is no puppet. I have the utmost confidence in [him].”

The same cannot be said about King’s extended family.

In the meantime, I have a dinosaur-sized bone to pick with a certain South Korean daily.

Call me an old fuddy-duddy, but there are some modern-day phenomena that I just cannot abide, and this latest one is just plain ridiculous.

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