Wed, Dec 09, 2009 - Page 8 News List

Regulating new media requires careful plan

By Yu Yao-cheng 余曜成

Next Media’s News-in-Motion animated news service has provoked a great deal of discussion and debate. These short video clips can be considered a typical example of media convergence. What view should society take of this phenomenon and how should it be managed?

Before the concept of “media convergence” came into being, print and electronic media were seen as two separate domains. Each stood on its own, with little cooperation between them. Now, as various kinds of media converge, print media has joined the digital world by going online. At the same time, there is a growing trend of cross-­ownership, mergers and acquisitions between different media sectors. Even before Next Media’s News-in-Motion was launched, the Chinese-language United Daily News provided a TV-like service by placing news clips edited from video recordings made by its reporters and campus correspondents on its Web site.

This emerging medium is a new competitive challenge for TV news channels. TV stations in Taiwan are bound by three laws. Anyone who wants to set up a TV channel must apply to the National Communications Commission for a license, as stipulated by the Cable Radio and Television Act (有線廣播電視法) and the Satellite Broadcasting Act (衛星廣播電視法). They must comply with the rule that political parties, the government and armed forces must not be involved in media ownership. Vertical integration of broadcasting system ownership must comply with the limitations imposed by the Cable Radio and Television Act and program content must be in line with the requirements of the three broadcasting laws.

A question that is often asked is whether the same regulations should apply to different media platforms when they broadcast the same content. In other words, if News-in-Motion content is subject to legal regulations when it is broadcast on cable TV channels, shouldn’t the same regulations apply when it is shown on the Internet?

The EU’s regulations for managing media convergence may be a point of reference. The EU’s Audio-Visual Media Services Directive defines media content in terms of linear and non-linear services and according to whether the content is edited by the service provider. With regard to News-in-Motion, conventional linear TV programs are those that are broadcast at set times by TV stations, which, as the main players in mass media, are regulated by the three broadcasting laws. This is in contrast to non-linear audio-visual content that is unedited by the service provider, such as video clips on YouTube. Since people can make their own content selections by clicking to view whatever they want, the broadcasting laws do not apply.

News-in-Motion is an interesting case because, although it is non-linear, it is edited by the service provider. This seems to put it in a category of its own, between the other two, hence the debate about how it should be handled.

The Taipei City Government fined Next Media under the Child and Youth Welfare Act (兒童及少年福利法) for failing to rate the content of its News-in-Motion clips. Now that Next Media has applied ratings to the content in accordance with Internet practice, will the government be able to regulate the content under existing laws? Officials should be very careful about how they try to enforce the law, especially when the content is non-linear, and when audio-visual files are hosted on servers outside Taiwan.

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