Mon, Feb 04, 2013 - Page 8 News List

Anti-media monopoly explained

By Ming-Yeh T. Rawnsley 蔡明燁

In 2009, Lai launched Next-TV, which pursues similar principles to Next Magazine and Apple Daily. The National Communications Commission (NCC) rejected its application for a cable television license and Next-TV can only deliver its programming via the Internet.

It is reported that Next-TV has suffered serious financial losses since 2009. Rumors began circulating early last year that Lai had decided to sell Next-TV, which triggered a series of complex business discussions that resulted in Lai agreeing to sell not only Next-TV, but also the more profitable Next Magazine and Apple Daily.

According to industry insiders, Tsai was among the first to express an interest in taking over Next Media, but Lai refused. Nevertheless, when Lai accepted an offer made by the China Trust Charity Foundation and Formosa Plastics group, it turned out that the Want Want China Times Media Group would become one of the major shareholders.

The transaction is to be completed in two stages. The first deal is regarding the print media outlets, Next Magazine and Apple Daily, and the proposed shareholders will be Formosa Plastics (34 percent), Want Want China Times Group (32 percent), China Trust (20 percent) and Lung Yen Life Service (14 percent). The second stage concerns the transaction of Next-TV, and the potential shareholders will be Formosa Plastics (34 percent), Taiwan Fire and Marine Insurance (32 percent), China Trust (20 percent) and Lung Yen Life Service (14 percent).

The deal is currently under review by the Fair Trade Commission because the remit of the NCC does not extend beyond broadcasting and telecommunications. If and when the transactions are approved, the most dominant media empire in the nation will be formed, and Tsai could become the most powerful individual in the media industry because, in addition to the media outlets owned by the Want Want China Times Media Group, China Trust and Formosa Plastics have media companies too, including ETTV, ONTV, rights to several foreign channels and cable TV distribution networks.

Several policy weaknesses regarding the media sector and press freedom in Taiwan are shown because of the Next Media deal. There are no sufficient regulations to prevent media monopoly; there is a lack of consideration of cross-media ownership among media regulators; and when discussing press freedom, one must recognize that commercial pressure is often just as damaging as political interference.

Media academics in Taiwan have said that the anti-media monopoly movement should look beyond one individual, or a single business negotiation and take a broader and more long-term view in order to reform the nation’s media.

Therefore, two further aims were added to the anti-media monopoly campaign: To strengthen public service broadcasting to curtail further commercialization of the media and to strengthen the regulations of establishing labor unions in the media industry so that professionals will be empowered and can stand up to their bosses if and when necessary.

Presently all companies in Taiwan are legally supposed to establish unions. However, as there is no penalty to the company if there is not a union, most private companies do not bother. Since most media companies in Taiwan are privately owned, few labor unions exist within the sector. Apple Daily and Next Magazine have now established labor unions in an attempt to continue to safeguard editorial independence and the interest of the workforce during and after the sale of Next Media outlets.

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