At the start of last year, the legislature passed an amendment to the Budget Act (預算法) that prohibits the government from carrying out embedded marketing. The administration of President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) solemnly swore that it would fully abide by the amendment.
However, an auditing report released by the National Audit Office a few days ago showed that not only has the government continued to practice embedded marketing, but that last year, more than 80 percent of the government bodies responsible for carrying out public policy broke the law. All the administration’s talk about “governance according to law” was shown to be just that, mere talk, and it has clearly shown its hypocritical and deceitful nature by constantly saying one thing and doing another.
Embedded marketing by the government has stirred up a lot of public indignation and civic groups have even formed an alliance against it. The main reason for this dissatisfaction is that government propaganda has been disguised as news, interviews, special installments of programs and symposiums. Repackaging information this way misleads anyone who receives it and this has harmed media professionalism and credibility. This has been done using public funds, which means that taxpayers’ money is being used to brainwash taxpayers.
Not only is the Ma administration openly breaking the law, the Directorate-General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics (DGBAS) has set up an exemption clause to give those agencies that are breaking the law a way to continue the practice. That is why there have been strong calls in the legislature to impeach the head of the DGBAS.
According to observations made by the Foundation for Prevention of Public Damage by the Media, even after the amendment was passed, propaganda issued by the central and local governments that is labeled as “advertisements” have become tools for government officials to show off and brag about their so-called “political achievements.” Advertisements that openly break the law are also rampant, while many other bodies — including state-owned enterprises like banks — continue to carry out a disguised form of government placement marketing.
Even worse, seeing the way the Ma administration has carried out embedded marketing, the Chinese government has copied the practice and started spending money in Taiwan to use the local media to brainwash the public. In recent years, when certain Chinese provincial leaders have made high-profile visits to Taiwan, certain Taiwanese media outlets have featured spectacular reports welcoming them. These actions clearly show how the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) are exactly the same in essence and that they have the same goal — which is using brainwashing to promote the unification of Taiwan with China.
Taiwanese laws are supposed to hinder embedded marketing, but China has circumvented these laws by getting certain people in Taiwan to set up “brainwashing centers.” Taiwanese should unite and stand up against this brainwashing that the KMT and the CCP are trying to impose on the public.
Lu Shih-hsiang is an adviser to the Taipei Times.
Translated by Drew Cameron