Thu, Jul 09, 2009 - Page 8 News List

TV talk show pundits’ bias has harmed media ethics

By Hu Wen-huei 胡文輝

How valuable is freedom of speech?

Countless numbers of people sacrificed their lives so that we can enjoy the freedom of speech we have today, an invaluable sacrifice. However, many so-called “political commentators” on TV talk shows sell this freedom like some cheap product, spreading vicious, distorted and biased views to increase their fame.

Not long ago, there were reports that a group of such commentators were treated to a shark’s fin soup banquet valued at more than NT$10,000 per head by a political personality they had earlier criticized on a talk show. Their role as commentators was criticized, but after the scandal died down, all was back to normal.

The scandal was only the tip of the iceberg. Commentators often criticize others for having no sense of shame. The banquet scandal showed these commentators for what they really are. The incident should have made those involved question their own shamelessness. I doubt it did.

Commentators often talk about how the public have the right to know the truth, yet spit out nonsensical rubbish. They declare that they represent independent views and critique, but at the same time conspire with others who share their opinions to serve certain interest groups. They also claim they exist to battle the injustices caused by those with special privileges, while at the same time being willing to help those in power create new injustices.

Many commentators claim to be intellectuals, but intellectuals should speak the truth to those in power in a society lacking freedom of speech. But even in a country with freedom of speech, Taiwan’s political commentators abuse their positions to serve those in power. This is a bogus form of freedom of speech and represents moral decay.

Who wields power now? The answer of course is President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and his administration. The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) enjoys a majority in the legislature. Ma’s power will be even more far-reaching after he becomes chairman of the KMT.

People who criticize those in power are brave, while the underlings of the powerful who criticize and harass the opponents of those in power are cowards.

Some criticize political commentators, saying their biased and subjective opinions are bringing disaster to Taiwan and its public. However, they don’t have that much power. When we see the “freedom of speech” that these commentators hide behind for what it really is, we will realize a great number of them are in fact imbeciles.

The twisted, subjective opinions of Taiwan’s “renowned” political commentators and the supposed “inside scoops” they frequently dig up pose much harm to the credibility of the media. Reporters spend endless amounts of time and energy trying to find out the facts behind news stories, but all their hard work is nowhere near as influential as the conjecture of political commentators on TV and the way in which this conjecture comes across as a hard fact.

Media ethics have been seriously damaged in Taiwan. However, with developments on the Internet giving increased opportunities for people to express their opinions, I am sure the last days of these imbeciles are imminent.

Hu Wen-huei is a Liberty Times columnist.

TRANSLATED BY DREW CAMERON

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