Sun, Jul 18, 2004 - Page 17 News List

Freeing the airwaves

The government's plan to de-politicize the ownership of broadcast media and establish more public television and radio networks has left journalists strongly divided about the intentions and consequence of such a move

By Gavin Phipps  /  STAFF REPORTER

ILLUSTRATION: MOUNTAIN PEOPLE

The long, drawn-out and much maligned campaign to amend the Broadcasting and Television Law (廣播電視法), which will put an end to nearly 50 years of political influence within the broadcast media, should come to a head early next year, when a policy aimed at ensuring that all political parties sell off shares and cease operations within radio and television is brought into effect.

While the crux of the act sets out to rid broadcast-media of its political bias, the revisions are also aimed at ridding the nation of radio frequency monopolies and establishing more public television channels. Regardless of party affiliation, these moves are considered by many as pivotal to the democratization of Taiwan's broadcast media.

"It is an odd situation in Taiwan, as so many broadcast media outlets are either owned or run by active members of the nation's political parties. The situation is still very much like it was during KMT one-party rule," said Tony Lu (呂東熹), President of the Association of Taiwan Journalists (ATJ, 台灣新聞記者協會). "Taiwan is not the same any more. If we want to be a democracy, we need to see an end to political ownership of the media."

The government currently owns 75.04 percent of Chinese Television System (CTS, 華視), 47.39 percent of Taiwan Television (TTV, 台視), finances Hakka TV (哈客TV) and runs four radio stations -- Police Radio System (警察廣播電台), Fu-Hsing Broadcasting (復興廣播電台), National Education Radio (教育廣播電台) and Voice of Han (漢聲廣播電台).

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) media assets include 35.6 percent of China Television Company (CTV, 中視) and, through its Hwahsia Investment and Holding Company (華夏公司), a 96.95-percent stake in the Broadcasting Corporation of China (BCC, 中廣播電台), a radio station that occupies 69 frequencies (31 FM and 38 AM) or a total of 42 percent of the nation's useable radio station frequencies.

The government made de-politicizing of the media its goal four years ago, but it wasn't until last year that party-affiliated media moguls began to feel the pinch. In September, President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) called on all DPP members associated with media groups to comply with the party's policy and either remove themselves from office or resign their positions within the media.

As a result, 12 DPP legislators resigned their posts within the media. But the actions of others, such as the DPP's Huang Chao-hui (黃昭輝) and Chang Chun-hung (張俊宏), who concealed their involvement with the Voice of Southern Taiwan (南台灣之聲) and UFO (飛碟廣播), respectively, have left some questioning the motives behind the government's drive to end political influence within the broadcast media.

"Taiwan has so many television channels that people can watch news and national issue-related programs almost 24 hours a day. The dangers of political influence are at an all-time high and there is a now a genuine need for media openness and non-partisanship," said Hsu Rong-chi (許榮棋), president of the pirate radio station Voice of Taiwan (台灣之聲). "Sure, [the government] says it wants to clean house, but it's no use blaming other [parties] and ignoring their own shortcomings. If this proposal is going to work it has to do so across the board."

If passed, the revised law will see the biggest shake-up within the local broadcast media since the inception of cable television in the mid-1990s. The end goal is to create at least eight new public television channels and to clear the monopoly of radio airwaves to allow for the establishment of more publicly owned radio stations.

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