In 2010, Dafu Media, owned by Daniel Tsai (蔡明忠), sought to acquire cable systems owned by Kbro Co. Since Kbro already had its channels, which at the time had more than 1 million subscribers, the National Communications Commission wanted Dafu to make certain assurances before it would approve the acquisition, so as to avoid excessive media convergence.
These assurances included guarantees that the company would not operate news or finance channels without obtaining licenses, to prevent it from broadcasting its own news channels on favorable frequencies and crowding out other news channels. It also had to promise to abide by additional clauses stipulating that it would operate its channels in a fair, reasonable and equitable manner.
The NCC should be rigorously applying the same standards of the Dafu bid to the Want Want bid, because the latter already owns satellite news channels, such as China Television and CTiTV. If Want Want succeeds in acquiring the CNS cable TV services, it will own 12 channels and 11 cable TV services, covering over 1 million subscribers.
This would hand it more control, and presents a higher risk of media convergence, than was present in the Dafu bid.
Article 6 of the Administrative Procedure Act (行政程序法) states: “No differential treatment is permitted for administrative acts without a good cause.”
This is a concrete expression of the legal principle of administrative self-restraint, as applied in the 2004 Administrative Supreme Court interpretation No. 1392. This interpretation stated that, according to the principle of equality enshrined in the Constitution, administrative bodies are expected to deal with situations that are of a similar nature in an equal manner, which is the essence of administrative self-restraint.
Based on this, and given that the circumstances for both the Want Want media acquisition and the Dafu bid are essentially identical, the National Communications Commission clearly cannot treat the Want Want acquisition differently in its administrative handling of the approval process.
Instead, because the Want Want bid is likely to have a more significant impact than the Dafu bid, the National Communications Commission should certainly be applying the principle of administrative self-restraint to strictly forbid Want Want from operating a news cable channel. The commission should also implement other restrictions, even stricter than those that were applied to the Dafu bid.
Huang Di-ying is a lawyer and a member of the Taiwan Bar Association’s Commission on Human Rights.
Translated by Paul Cooper