Sun, Oct 30, 2005 - Page 1 News List

GIO readies the blowtorch for TVBS


Government Information Office (GIO) Minister Pasuya Yao (姚文智) yesterday said the GIO possesses sufficient evidence to prove that cable TV station TVBS is a foreign-owned company and therefore breaking the law.

"We learned of this from the 2005 annual budget report by Hong Kong's TVBS board," he said.

Yao said the report stated that Hong Kong Bermuda TVB Investment Co Ltd, one of TVBS' subsidiaries, has increased its share of TVBS from 70 percent to 100 percent by purchasing more shares from Taiwan's Countless Entertainment (Taiwan) Co Ltd, and that the deal was completed on March 21.

TVBS is registered under the name of Liann Yee Production Co, of which Countless Entertainment Co is the major shareholder.

"I think this clearly shows that the TV station is a now completely foreign-owned company. If that is the case, the GIO is authorized to suspend all operation licenses for its four channels," he said.

Yao said the GIO would request TVBS to explain its circumstances tomorrow. He also posed four questions to the cable station yesterday.

He said the first question Countless Entertainment Co, and how a company with capital of only NT$1 million (US$29,800), could possess TVBS shares worth around NT$500 million.

Yao asked why the Countless Entertainment Co is located in the same building as the TV station, and speculated that the firm was a front.

He then asked how it was possible for Countless' president and Bermuda's president to swap, before finally wondering if TVBS' annual budget report was dependable.

Speaking on the sidelines of a campaign event yesterday, Premier Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) said it would not hurt for TVBS to come forward with an explanation that would answer questions surrounding its funding.

On Friday, the GIO issued a NT$200,000 fine to TVBS for failing to report a change in its stock ownership when it applied for a renewal of its license earlier this year. The fine was issued after a TVBS talkshow alleged that a number of top government officials were corrupt, including former Presidential Office deputy secretary-general Chen Che-nan (陳哲男).

Yao denied there was any connection between the allegations and the probe into TVBS.

TVBS chairman Norman Leung's (梁乃鵬) background as former chairman of the Hong Kong Broadcasting Authority became the focus of Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lawmakers, who complained that the cable station was actually a Chinese-sponsored station and was being taken advantage of by Beijing to create unrest in Taiwan.

TVBS spokeswoman Yeh Yu-chun (葉毓君) yesterday insisted that the station's registration and applications for licenses met all requirements.

"By law, foreign shares cannot exceed 50 percent of the company. That is what we are at now," she said.

Yeh said TVBS is now co-owned by the Taiwan-based Oriental (53 percent) and British Bermuda (47 percent).

Asked whether TVBS regarded the GIO's action as akin to "white terror" and a retaliation against its talkshow's allegations of official graft, Yeh said this was something that TVBS management would avoid thinking about.

"We still want to believe that truth and justice still exist," she said.

Meanwhile, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) said yesterday that if the government moved to kill off a cable TV station for exposing scandals involving the government, then the public would react in protest.

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