The latest review meeting to choose the fifth board of directors and board of supervisors for the Public Television Service (PTS) was held on Jan. 18, with five board members added to the eight previously chosen. That still left the board four members short of the required 17. As the meeting ended, Minister of Culture Lung Ying-tai (龍應台), who is responsible for organizing the review procedure, appeared, and I took the opportunity to have a few words with her.
“Minister, you must have consulted with the Chinese Nationalist Party [KMT] authorities prior to submitting the list of nominees, so why is it that the review committee members the party recommended scuttled your nominations?” I asked.
It was a simple matter of mathematics to confirm that it had been the KMT that had refused the ministry’s nominations. The list consisted of 15 names, and the six committee members recommended by the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) had issued a joint statement prior to the meeting declaring their support for 10 candidates and eliminating the five clearly controversial choices.
Had the eight committee members recommended by the KMT not objected to the ministry’s list, 10 candidates — most of whom had been recommended by civic groups — would have easily earned the required threshold of 12 votes.
Regrettably, not only were the candidates nominated by the civic groups rejected, but even Olympic bronze medalist Chi Cheng (紀政), regarded as a national treasure, only received seven votes. Academics committed to media reform — Chad Liu (劉昌德) from National Chung Cheng University’s communications department and Lin Lih-yun (林麗雲) of National Taiwan University’s Graduate Institute of Journalism — as well as 4-Way Voice chief editor Chang Cheng (張正) and former radio broadcaster Liu Ming (劉銘), who would have represented the socially disadvantaged — made it to the fourth round of voting before being rejected.
Many people have been frustrated by the drawn-out nominations process for the PTS board. Some are blaming partisan blue-green brinkmanship, while others think the solution is to lower the approval threshold. Amid all this speculation and recommendations, it is important to get a clear view of the facts if we hope to make wise decisions and choices.
Crucial questions to ask are: What are the causes of the failure to form a PTS board? Who is at fault?
The tenure of the fourth PTS board expired on Dec. 30, 2010, and in the absence of replacements, was “automatically extended” for a period now close to 800 days, and counting. In the interval, the review committee has met six times, confirming 13 nominees. People are asking why the old board has been extended this long, and why it is so difficult to form a new board.
First, let’s look at the actions of Cabinet-level agencies. The Legislative Yuan appointed 15 individuals considered upstanding members of the community to sit on the review committee, with the number of committee members allowed each party weighted according to the percentage of seats it holds in the legislature.
In two meetings, the first in November 2010, and the second in January 2011, the committee selected five directors and one member of the board of supervisors, and also suggested that the Cabinet submit more nominations as soon as possible. That advice was ignored by the last two ministers of the now-dissolved Government Information Office (GIO) — Johnny Chiang (江啟臣) and Philip Yang (楊永明).