Mon, Feb 04, 2013 - Page 8 News List

Anti-media monopoly explained

By Ming-Yeh T. Rawnsley 蔡明燁

As the anti-media monopoly movement gathers momentum in Taiwan and overseas, it is important to have a clearer understanding of what it is about. For example, when Noam Chomsky expressed his support for the anti-media monopoly campaign in Taiwan, he agreed to be photographed with a campaign poster. However, Chomsky later claimed that he did not realize that the poster in his hands included a slogan, “anti-hidden Chinese interference” (拒絕中國黑手).

The intention of this article is threefold: First, it aims to clarify the various issues associated with the movement. While they are interrelated, these issues focus on different problems. Second, it will offer a broad overview of why, when and how these issues came under the same campaign umbrella and finally, it will reflect on the implications of the anti-media monopoly movement for media reform in the nation.

The campaigners originally championed three issues: anti-media monopoly, anti-Chinese interference (the “China factor,” which refers to Taiwanese businesspeople with economic interests China) and safeguarding press freedom.

Recently, two additional issues have been added: strengthening public service broadcasting and strengthening labor unions within the media industry.

The movement can be traced to 2008 when the China Times Group was purchased by Want Want Holdings, one of the largest food manufacturing companies in Asia, with extensive business interests in the People’s Republic of China (PRC).

The Want Want China Times Media Group soon became a significant media enterprise in Taiwan, with several print and electronic outlets including the Chinese-language newspaper China Times, terrestrial television station China Television Co (CTV) and its digital channels, cable television CtiTV, and, in 2011, China Network Systems, Taiwan’s second-largest cable TV provider.

As media ownership came into the spotlight, the anti-media monopoly campaign began to attract attention.

Want Want Group chairman Tsai Eng-meng (蔡衍明) is highly controversial because he has allegedly interfered in the media under his control. For example, the editorial line of the China Times skewed toward support for a particular kind of Chinese state corporatism. It validates the PRC party-state and the rhetoric of national economic development. It also supports the parallel efforts of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) government to align its policies with those of China.

Tsai was involved in several high-profile disputes, including with an exiled student leader of the 1989 pro-democracy movement in China, Wang Dan (王丹), regarding Tsai’s comments on the Tiananmen Square incident during an interview with the Washington Post. Moreover, the editor-in-chief of China Times, Hsia Chen (夏珍), was removed because the wording of a headline about former chairman of China’s Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits Chen Yunlin (陳雲林) was considered “disrespectful” by Tsai.

Tsai’s blatant disregard of press freedom and the way his business interests in China have explicitly and implicitly influenced the operations of his media outlets in Taiwan has caused much concern among social elites.

The Chinese-language Next Magazine was launched in Taiwan in 2001 followed by Apple Daily in 2003. They were owned by Hong Kong media tycoon, Jimmy Lai (黎智英), and operate by the principles of sensationalism. However, because they also conduct vigorous investigative journalism and insist on political independence, they quickly became one of the best-selling news magazines and newspapers in Taiwan.

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