There have been reports that Taiwan Broadcasting System (TBS) is thinking about investing NT$13 million (US$433,000) per year to hire another seven staff members to broadcast a 15-minute English-language news segment during the Minnan news broadcast aired by the Public Television Service (PTS), a member of TBS.
If TBS has access to these funds, be it through fundraising, donations or tax revenue, there are many other items that should be given priority.
For example, the resources TBS is currently investing in its Web site are far from what they should be, and although NT$10 million or so would not be enough, it would be a substantive contribution.
Another example is the ongoing problem with the employment of temporary workers at PBS: If this sum was available annually, that problem could be relieved or even resolved.
Yet another example is the lack of international news in Taiwan. The NT$13 million could be used to expand viewers’ horizons. These issues should be placed ahead of an English-language segment.
If the goal is to serve people who do not understand Mandarin, this budget should be spent on Southeast Asian languages, not English. Taiwan Macroview Television Service already offers local news in English.
TBS chairman Shao Yu-ming (邵玉銘) told the Ministry of Culture on behalf of TBS that it does not want Macroview to be returned to the Overseas Chinese Affairs Commission or the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, but rather it wants to follow the precedent set overseas and for TBS to take over Macroview’s production and broadcasting to build credibility.
Shao said that one of the aims of setting up the English-language news service is to “provide services to people learning English.”
It would have been better if he had not said anything — saying too much increases the chances that if something goes wrong, the station will become a mockery. For anyone who wants to learn English, there are authentic English stations on cable TV and Chunghwa Telecom Co’s multimedia-on-demand digital service.
What need is there to turn 15 minutes of a news broadcast into an English class?
In what way are the BBC, Voice of America and the many other English Internet news sites inferior to Taiwan-produced English news?
Feng Chien-san is a professor of journalism at National Chengchi University.
Translated by Perry Svensson