Sat, Jan 26, 2019 - Page 8 News List

TVBS reporting hardly balanced

By Tu Ho-ting 杜和庭

As a vibrant democracy, Taiwan is full of various or even contentious views on every issue. In this social atmosphere, news media could hardly provide objective reports, but rather reports tinged with bias based on their audience. It is no secret that each outlet has a political leaning, be it to the pan-blue, pan-green or red camp.

Controversy stirred up by a TVBS report is a brilliant case in point. A report suggested that Bonnie Glaser, a China expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, supported the appointment of Vincent Chao (趙怡翔) as head of the political division at the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in Washington because the center received US$500,000 from the government for a research project.

Glaser fired back on Twitter, condemning TVBS for “distorting the facts to try to smear my credibility,” and claiming “it’s fake news.”

She noted that CSIS does research on the entire world, including Taiwan.

“The report falsely claims that CSIS is close to the DPP [Democratic Progressive Party]. It fails to mention the work CSIS did when Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) was president. We hosted Ma for several video conferences,” she said.

TVBS responded by insisting that the report regarding “CSIS receiving US$500,000 is based on the public information from the CSIS Web site. So TVBS firmly asserts that this report was not cooked up, fabricated or has any mistakes.”

TVBS was right to claim that with the data obtained from the Web site, there was no fabrication or distortion in the report. However, the report was highly tendentious.

Two cases were cited to insinuate the closeness between the CSIS and the DPP. The first was President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) visit to the center in 2015 and the second was a visit last year by then-Kaohsiung mayor Chen Chu (陳菊), who is now secretary-general to the president. Coincidentally, Glaser hosted both meetings.

Moreover, the only expert opinion, an important, symbolic guidance in the context of a news report, was from Bernard Lai (賴岳謙), a pan-blue camp academic who endorses the “one country, two systems” framework and is a regular guest on China Central Television’s (CCTV) political program.

Lai was quoted as saying: “She [Glaser] took Taiwan’s funding and then made comments on our diplomat. That’s very inappropriate.”

With this explicit accusation and without a counter argument to balance it, it is clear that TVBS intentionally used the academic’s view to reinforce its undisclosed argument.

Most importantly, the title of the report that was shown on TV and mobile devices was: “Bonnie Glaser supports Vincent Chao: Tsai government donated think tank US$500,000.”

These words explicitly and clearly expressed the report’s main ideas and the connection it tried to make.

This is just one of the controversies sparked by a TVBS reports in recent months.

On Nov. 9 last year, American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) Chairman James Moriarty gave an interview to TVBS, warning that external forces were attempting to manipulate public opinion ahead of that month’s local elections.

In a normal situation, this kind of exclusive interview would be aired repeatedly throughout the day and sometimes the following day.

However, according to local media, TVBS broadcast the interview only once that day and never again. A video of the interview was removed from its Web site six days later. Surprisingly, it was the same day the spokesman of China’s Taiwan Affairs Office claimed that “China never meddles in Taiwan’s elections.”

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