For example, in the UK, nobody controlling more than 20 percent of national newspaper circulation can own more than 20 percent of an independent TV license. It can also check whether same-industry merger and acquisition regulations are being followed. If, for example, the acquisition of a newspaper results in a market share of more than 25 percent, Ofcom has the power to intervene and investigate the deal until it is satisfied that the new group will report factual news and allow for a diversity of views, in accordance with considerations of the public interest.
At the time of the phone hacking scandal in the UK, Rupert Murdoch’s media organization, News Corp, was in the process of bidding for the shares in British Sky Broadcasting (BSkyB) that it did not already own, in an attempt to acquire the organization outright. However, it withdrew the bid after the regulator questioned it.
Murdoch’s reputation took a battering in the UK over the phone hacking scandal, but the actual reason for the decision to refer the bid to the regulator was that his company already had a 39 percent stake in BSkyB and a 37 percent market share in the national newspaper industry. We must not forget that the UK has a robust public media tradition, and the BBC, with its global reach, is far more influential than any privately owned broadcasting corporation.
In 2003 Taiwan had some legislation of its own in this field, to limit the influence of political parties, politicians or the military in the media. Times change and with them circumstances, and we are now faced with the challenge of an acquisition that the legislators had not quite contemplated at the time. Now, it is only through legislation that we are going to be able to protect our basic human rights in the face of pressure from big money.
Chiang Ya-chi is an assistant professor at the Shih Hsin University School of Law’s Graduate Institute for Intellectual Property Rights.
Translated by Paul Cooper