Sat, Jul 02, 2005 - Page 1 News List

New Aboriginal station on the air

MEDIA RIGHTS The Indigenous Television Network is the first channel in Asia that is devoted to indigenous broadcasting, but faces several challenges

By Mo Yan-chih  /  STAFF REPORTER

Renowned Aboriginal music group Beiyuan Shanmao performs at the launch of the Aboriginal Television Network in Taipei yesterday.

PHOTO: TAI TA-HSIANG, TAIPEI TIMES

The launch in Taiwan of Asia's first Aboriginal Television channel cements Aboriginal access to the media and advances the rights of Taiwan's indigenous people, President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) said yesterday.

Addressing the launch ceremony of the Indigenous Television Network (ITV), Chen said he had high hopes that the station would communicate the diversity of Taiwan's 12 Aboriginal tribes to the public and pass down the nation's indigenous cultural heritage to young Aborigines.

"Now that the camera and the microphone have been handed to the indigenous peoples, we expect ITV to seize this opportunity to disseminate minority viewpoints and their distinctive cultures and languages," Chen said.

Thanks to five years of effort by the government, the media industry and Aboriginal-rights advocates, the launch of ITV yesterday followed a six-month trial broadcast that started last December.

Performances of traditional song and dance by renowned Aboriginal artists featured throughout the launch, which was held in front of the Taiwan Television Station (TTV), the parent network responsible for operation of the channel.

After delivering his speech, Chen pressed a button with Premier Frank Hsieh (謝長廷), Council of Indigenous Peoples (CIP) Chairman Walis Pelin and Government Information Office (GIO) Minister Pasuya Yao (姚文智) to symbolize the start of the TV station's operations.

ITV promises to present programs showcasing Aboriginal culture and which move beyond stereotyped images portrayed in the media to date.

Taiwan's 460,000 indigenous people are expected to have access to ITV via satellite and other receivers, even in remote mountainous and coastal areas, according to GIO officials.

Some Aboriginal advocates, however, continued to express concerns over poor reception in some communities and an excessive number of commercials.

They criticized TTV's use of commercials on the Hakka television channel, which has been operated by TTV since July 2003, and said they feared ITV would receive the same treatment.

"For example, the program hosts often refer to Aborigines as `they,' as if we were some foreign creature from another world," said Voyu (湯志偉), chairman of the Association for Taiwan Indigenous Peoples Policy, at a forum earlier this year reviewing the ITV trial.

Sylvia Feng (馮賢賢), a senior producer at the Public Television Station, suggested that Taiwan take Canada's APTN station -- a public channel dedicated to that country's native population -- as a model, and recruit Aborigines as the station's core employees.

In addition to representing Aboriginal groups, Feng said, this would help train new talent and further reduce unemployment in the Aboriginal population.

The Aboriginal Education Law (原住民族教育法) requires that the government assign time slots on public television channels, or establish an entire channel devoted to Aboriginal culture and education. The CIP has been working to create a channel for indigenous people since the law was passed in 2000.

However, the plan stalled in 2003 over concerns in the Legislative Yuan that a large number of Aborigines would not be able to receive the channel because of the poor reception in mountainous areas.

The legislature eventually passed the NT$300 million (US$9.5 million) budget last year.

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