Sat, Mar 23, 2019 - Page 8 News List

Unlocking the secret behind cult TV stations

By Huang Di-ying 黃帝穎

Many eateries, cafeterias and restaurants lock their televisions on specific channels, local media reports said, adding that they are paid NT$500 per month to do so and are told not to switch channels.

This revelation has prompted a flurry of activities on Facebook, including a public survey on TV channel switching and a call to boycott these stations — colloquially known as “personally cult stations” (造神台) — to create a clean news environment in Taiwan.

A well-known Tainan musician also conducted a survey on TV channel settings at restaurants in the city’s Anping District (安平) and found in just a few days that dozens of restaurants in the area are cooperating with certain news channels.

The question is: Who is paying them NT$500 per month to lock their televisions on specific news channels in an attempt to promote their campaign to build a personality cult or promote a specific political ideology?

Apart from using money to interfere with the news environment and placing national security at risk, they might also have contravened the Fair Trade Act (公平交易法).

Regardless of the political motives behind a decision to pay restaurant owners to set their televisions to specific channels, TV ratings are important for commercial promotion, which means that the practice should fall under the regulations of the act.

According to a penalty given at the Fair Trade Commission’s 1,231st commission member meeting in 2015, the result of a TV ratings survey not only serves as a reference for operators through which they can improve the service to their viewers, it can also help businesses decide on allocation of and investment in commercials.

For this very reason, the commission said that the release of TV viewer ratings has a promotional effect that can attract business.

Thus, when TV operators use viewer ratings as a tool for marketing their programs, they should enclose all appropriate major information and avoid false or misleading information. Otherwise, such information could lead those who do business with them to make the wrong decision, potentially harming their rights and interests, as well as those of competing TV operators.

Based on the same legal reasoning, those who pay eateries, cafeterias and restaurants every month to set their televisions to specific channels have boosted viewer ratings in a dishonest or misleading way, and this could cause those who do business with those channels — for example, advertising agencies — to make incorrect decisions.

People should work together to fulfill their civic responsibility by revealing these sources. The government should also fulfill its legal responsibility by finding the manipulators and money flows that hide behind those who pay all these eateries, cafeterias and restaurants to lock their TVs on certain stations.

Huang Di-ying is a lawyer.

Translated by Eddy Chang

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