“I do not know what to say,” was how a surprised Minister of Culture Lung Ying-tai (龍應台) reacted to the failure of a review meeting to approve the Public Television Service’s (PTS) fifth board of directors on Monday. The main point is that there is a vast difference between the cruel reality of the situation and Lung’s wishful thinking.
Lung’s nomination list and the way she proposed it was different than in the past. Previously, nominees appeared to be clearly aligned with former Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) secretary-general King Pu-tsung (金溥聰), but this time they seemed to be Lung’s people. For example, writer Chen Hao (陳浩) is a board director of the Lung Yingtai Cultural Foundation and writer Chen Yi-chen (陳怡真) has been chief editor of the China Times supplement, so they have both had public and private dealings with Lung.
In the past, the nominated list was never revealed prior to the review, but this time the list was made public at an early stage. Lung selected several people from the cultural sector and then cleverly connected the two steps.
First, she proposed nominees like Chen Hsin-hung (陳信宏) — commonly known as A-shin (阿信), the lead singer of pop-rock band Mayday — to head the list. Then, she announced it to the public in order to put pressure on the review committee and make it more difficult for its members to reject her nominees.
Furthermore, she only nominated 19 people with the obvious hope that the review committee would accept her list wholesale. Since five of the names on the list had already been approved at the last meeting, the question is why she proposed 19 nominees when 14 would have sufficed? Maybe she likes to make a big deal of things and thought that the review committee would be afraid to reject her nominations. Maybe she hoped she could pop open the champagne and celebrate the approval of the whole list as soon as the meeting was over.
Lung stressed that her list represented “expertise, diversity and public personas” and that she had “put an end to political considerations.”
However, the list’s biggest shortcoming is its lack of diversity and public personas. Apart from a small number of nominees, no one else, including A-shin, has any experience attending to public affairs or working or speaking on behalf the public.
Even more serious, there is a clear unbalance in the group’s ethnic representation and no comprehensive thought was given to striking a balance between northern and southern Taiwan. Accepting such a list would create a PTS with a Taipei-centric outlook.
As for her statement that she had put an end to political considerations, it should probably be asked why a review committee nominated by the ruling party fails to support her list of nominees. And before questioning why a small group of people should be able to paralyze a public service, as she did on Monday, Lung should have first asked why the KMT members on the committee did not accept her entire list.
If reviewers from her own party reject her nominations, she cannot blame other people for “paralyzing” the process.
Lung calls herself an intellectual, but when her nominations are hampered by the Public Television Act (公共電視法), she tries play with the law to fix the problem. She says the act’s requirement that nominees be approved by three-quarters of the review committee’s members is unreasonable because “even the approval threshold for members of the Grand Council of Justices is 50 percent, so why should a volunteer board of directors for the PTS should require a threshold of three-quarters?”
First: Are PTS board directors really volunteers? Please be serious, this is no joking matter. As for the statement that the three-quarters requirement is unreasonable because it allows one-quarter of the review committee members to manipulate the situation, one is left wondering why no one raised any questions about this issue during the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) administration between 2000 and 2008, when the governing party was in a minority. This just goes to show that this is not a legal issue.
Next, only a simple majority is required to appoint members to the Council of Grand Justices because of the legislature — as the battle field for the political parties. A simple majority is the standard requirement for all personnel issues, budget proposals and legal bills.
Perhaps Lung does not realize that PTS is a public service and that the purpose is to try to avoid its monopolization by a single political party? Furthermore, amending the law will not solve the problem with the current board of directors. One must not forget the possibility that the next government might be a DPP government.
Lung is blaming the rules of the game for losing, and the KMT has already changed the law once to be able to maintain control of the PTS. Are they simply going to continue to change the law until they win again? Lung is clearly learning the KMT’s bad tricks.
Chin Heng-wei is a political commentator.
Translated by Perry Svensson
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