Tue, Nov 18, 2003 - Page 1 News List

GIO draws away from VCD dispute

U-TURN The agency said that VCDs critical of the pan-blue camp were legal after all, as PFP pressure prompted an actress in the production to try suicide

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

In an apparent policy flip-flop, the Government Information Office (GIO) said yesterday that the Special Report series of VCDs mocking pan-blue politicians will no longer be considered illegal and therefore does not need to obtain a circulation license.

The announcement comes after criticism from the People First Party drove an actress in the VCD series, Wang Hsiao-fen (王小芬), to attempt suicide.

"To safeguard a free press and free speech guaranteed by the Constitution, the GIO has the right to amend certain regulations to strike a balance between free speech and administrative management," GIO Director-General Huang Hui-chen (黃輝珍) said during a press conference at the Executive Yuan yesterday.

While the Broadcasting and Television Law (廣播電視法施行細則) mandates that 13 different kinds of taped television programs do not need to be sent to the GIO for review before airing, two additional kinds will be added to the list.

They are programs discussing public issues and VCDs released in conjunction with written publications. This means the Special Report series will no longer need to be sent to the GIO for review.

Huang had insisted that the VCDs violated the Broadcasting and Television Law (廣播電視法) because they failed to obtain a circulation license from the GIO.

The GIO's change of heart was believed to have a lot to do with the Presidential Office's attitude. The Presidential Office reportedly was surprised to learn of Huang's publicly declaring the illegitimacy of the VCDs. It feared that the GIO's interference in the matter would trample on the government's efforts to protect freedom of speech.

Huang also expressed his regret and sympathy yesterday over the pressure certain entertainers featuring in the series have had to endure.

"I'm calling on the public to respect the profession and working rights of entertainers," Huang said. "The public should realize that entertainers are not themselves when they play the roles."

Huang was referring to Wang Hsiao-fen (王小芬), an actress playing a character named "Garbage Spring" (垃圾春) in the series.

Wang was rushed to the hospital yesterday morning after she attempted to kill herself. Wang, a struggling single mother, reportedly tried to commit suicide because she was unable to cope with the pressure over the VCD.

People First Party (PFP) Legislator Chiu Yi (邱毅) said yesterday that he has filed a libel lawsuit against an actor in the series named Andy (安迪), who uses only a single name.

"I'll never let him off the hook so easily, even if the litigation process may cost me my job," he said.

Andy had questioned Chiu's financial situation and loyalty to his wife.

Andy's remark came after Chiu claimed that actress Chiang Hsia (江霞), cartoonist Yu-fu (漁夫) and a professor surnamed Hsieh at Soochow University and political commentator Shieh Jhy-wey (謝志偉) were behind the controversial VCD.

Chiu claimed that the four DPP supporters were driven to shoot the political comedy out of a desire to keep the pan-green camp in office.

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