Wed, Jun 14, 2017 - Page 8 News List

Regrets over NCC’s block of deal

By Chen Ping-hung 陳炳宏

Although there is no clear legal basis to disallow Taiwan Optical’s acquisition of Eastern Broadcasting, it is reasonable to judge that such a merger would have an effect on the industry’s development.

An antitrust bill should include regulations governing horizontal market shares and vertical integration in the media industry. It should cover the allowance and permissible scale of combined vertical and horizontal integration, cross-media ownership and permissible equity ratios. It should state whether cable TV systems such as those involved in this case can own satellite TV channels, or what proportion of equity they are allowed to own.

Furthermore, opinions posited as grounds for disallowing the merger, such as that owning two national news channels or the news channel with the third-highest viewership, would have an effect on the opinion market should be formalized as soon as possible by drawing up a media antitrust law.

Another issue is the existing restrictions on investment in radio and television businesses by political parties, government authorities and the armed forces, as stipulated in the three radio and television acts: the Radio and Television Act (廣播電視法), the Cable Television Act (有線電視法) and the Satellite Broadcasting Act (衛星廣播電視法).

The commission said that this was not a major reason for its decision, but it did not deny that it was a factor. This shows that now is a good time to discuss the rules governing party, government and armed forces investment, whether this involves amending the acts or including the matter in the proposed media antitrust regulations.

There is widespread opposition to the legal restrictions, but recently we have also been hearing objections to government ownership of media in connection with the Hakka Affairs Council’s operation of a radio channel and in reaction to regulations introduced by the commission on the establishment of government-run radio or television stations.

The bewildering thing is that some people who are energetically pushing for an end to the rules governing investment by political parties, the government and the armed forces in media entities have also been criticizing the government for owning media.

I have all along held to the consistent positions of opposing abolition of the restrictions on parties, government and the armed forces and opposing government ownership of radio and television media.

How the roles of parties, government and the armed forces investment should be regulated should be open to discussion and consensus.

Such issues include whether and how to amend the rules about penalties for noncompliant media, how to formulate exceptional provisions — such those governing the size and form of equity shares — and the content of sunrise or sunset clauses, such as setting aside things that happened in the past.

However, a basic concept of democracy is that the media and government should stick to their respective roles as the overseer and the overseen.

In view of this, I am opposed to abolishing the restrictions on political parties, the government and the armed forces investing in media entities.

Chen Ping-hung is a professor in the Graduate Institute of Mass Communication at National Taiwan Normal University.

Translated by Julian Clegg

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