The current list of people nominated by the premier to serve as members of the National Communications Commission (NCC, 國家通訊傳播委員會) has drawn much controversy surrounding their backgrounds, characters and integrity, as well as potential conflicts of interest. Even more questionable is that none of the candidates is concerned with media democracy and the rights of viewers and listeners. Can it be that Premier Sean Chen (陳冲) does not really care about safeguarding the media, freedom and democracy? Or could it be that — through the eyes of the Cabinet — that the NCC, which is in charge of national media policy development, is nothing more than a stooge to media corporations to assist the development of media businesses?
The National Communications Commission Organization Act (國家通訊傳播委員會組織法) lists the purposes for which the commission was established, and these aims include: enforcing the constitutional guarantee of freedom of speech; promoting the sound development of communications; preserving the independence of the media; ensuring fair and effective competition in the communications market; protecting consumers’ interests and respecting the rights of the disadvantaged; and promoting the balanced development of cultural pluralism. Of these six aims, only two have to do with the development of media businesses; the other four are concerned with culture and the quality of communications in relation to freedom, democracy and the audience’s rights and interests. However, among the current list of nominees, apart from two legal academics, all the others have connections to media businesses.
Among the first set of people who served as commissioners after the commission was set up were Lin Tung-tai (林東泰), who is a specialist in political communications and public opinion, and Liu Yu-li (劉幼俐), who is an expert on policy, law and new communications technologies. Among the second-term commissioners, Bonnie Peng (彭芸) is a specialist in international and political communications and Chung Chi-hui (鍾起惠) is an expert on the quality of radio and television media and the rights of readers and listeners. All four are highly reputable experts in media and communications and have written a great deal about their respective fields. Their expertise and accomplishments complemented those of other commissioners who specialize in economics, business and law, ensuring that the commission is able to carry out its full functions.
Compare that with the current list of nominees. Howard Shyr (石世豪) is a doctor of law specializing in administrative law and related subjects; Peng Shin-yi (彭心儀) specializes in technology law; Yu Hsiao-cheng (虞孝成) has worked in information technology and related businesses; and Chen Yuan-ling (陳元玲) has a media business background. There are also three commissioners who will continue in their posts for another two years. They are Chang Shi-chung (張時中), Wei Shyue-win (魏學文) and Liu Chorng-jian (劉崇堅), whose backgrounds are in information technology, communications technology and the telecommunications industry respectively. Not one of these continuing and prospective commissioners is concerned with media democracy or specializes in communications culture or the rights of readers and listeners. The list of nominees and the composition of the NCC show that the Cabinet’s view of the value of the media is confined to a business mindset which overlooks the fact that the media are a cornerstone of democratic and cultural values. The Cabinet’s choice of appointees also narrows the role of NCC commissioners and weakens the democratic function of the media in a free society.