Mon, Nov 07, 2011 - Page 8 News List

Taiwan is in need of a brand new media order

By Chiu Hei-yuan 瞿海源

Eighteen years ago, the Taipei Society published a book that sought to deconstruct broadcast and television media. In addition to detailing the ways in which the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) then controlled the media, it made an important call for the establishment of a new media order.

However, almost two decades later, broadcast and television media remain a shambles, corporations now monopolize the media on behalf of the KMT and program content is poor and biased.

Despite the establishment of the National Communications Commission (NCC), broadcast and television media norms are still in a terrible state and there is barely a new order at all.

Today, these media forms, especially television, have become impediments to progress and in some instances a force capable of eroding democracy.

According to a survey conducted by the World Values Survey Association, Taiwan ranked lowest out of the 48 nations surveyed when it came to public trust in television. National Communications Commission Chairperson Su Herng (蘇蘅) has analyzed the broadcast and television media in the past, but the work she has done since becoming head of the commission leaves much to be desired.

The commission now kowtows to corporations and the KMT and has shown itself to be almost powerless when it comes to establishing a new order for the media.

During the Martial Law era, the KMT controlled the media with the aim of maintaining its authoritarian regime. Corporations now monopolize the media to secure their profits. None of this is done with the public interest in mind.

As a result, media professionalism and its related ethics are brushed aside and political and commercial profits have severely damaged the public and professional nature of Taiwanese media.

In recent years, corporations have monopolized the sector. Such corporations own free-to-air and cable satellite television stations and control everything from systems to content. Moreover, they have even set up multimedia corporations, sectors of which used to work together in an integrated way to control both up and downstream elements of the industry.

What is worse is that apart from utilizing a high degree of operating leverage to make ill-gotten commercial gains, they openly ignore professionalism and ethics while manipulating the content of programs to achieve their political goals.

The government has done almost nothing to stop this deterioration of television. It has not only failed to build a system to facilitate the establishment of a new order for the media, but has shown itself incapable of correcting the inappropriate behavior that is often exhibited within the industry.

This is mainly because the government does not have an overall policy to establish a better system for national media and communications, but also because the commission has no way of safeguarding its supposed role as an independent agency.

In conclusion, it is clear that both the government’s overall policies and the operation of the commission as an independent agency have not been based on the core principle of the “public” interest and that both ignore the spirit of public participation.

Chiu Hei-yuan is a research fellow at Academia Sinica’s Institute of Sociology.

Translated by Drew Cameron

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