If the current impasse over the PTS board is a “scandal,” the cause of this scandal lies not with public broadcasting itself, but with negligent and lazy Cabinet agencies, as well as politicians and parties who seek to meddle in the operations of the station. Clearly, then, the way to clear up this scandal is not to abolish the station, but to stop parties and politicians from interfering in its operations, as well as to get on with amending the law and to consolidate the public broadcasting system.
The best thing to do right now would be to scrap the so-called “Lin Yi-shih (林益世) clause” by cutting the PTS board’s membership to a reasonable number, so that the fifth board can be established without further ado.
Lin was a Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) caucus whip in 2009 when he and other KMT lawmakers first unlawfully froze the station’s budget and then proposed an amendment to raise the membership of its board from between 11 and 15 people to between 17 and 21. This membership increase, along with political interference, led to disputes over the makeup of the board, which in turn is what led to the current impasse.
If the legislature changes the number of board members back to the original number, the 13 new members who have already been selected will be able to take up their posts straightaway, putting an end to PTS’ record-breaking state of anarchy.
The Public Television Act was formulated based on the media environment of the late 1990s in terms of the size of the corporation and its funding. The situation envisaged was having one public TV station to provide balance for four commercial wireless stations.
In this day and age, with many more commercial TV stations in operation, PTS alone cannot possibly perform its intended function of compensating for the inadequacy of commercial TV. Therefore, the Cabinet and legislature should hurry up and finish the process of deliberating amendments to the Public Television Act so that PTS can function. Only when that is done can the “scandal” that Lung talked about be cleared up for good.
Chad Liu is an associate professor of communications at National Chung Cheng University.
Translated by Julian Clegg