Tue, Nov 01, 2005 - Page 1 News List

TVBS battle heating up

MEDIA The opposition blasted the government as an `authoritarian regime,' while Cabinet officials said the controversy was simply a question of law

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER , WITH CNA

The People First Party (PFP) legislative caucus yesterday threatened to mobilize 1 million people to take to the streets if the government "dares" to revoke the operating license of cable station TVBS.

The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) caucus, however, said that the majority shareholders in TVBS are Hong Kong investors, and are therefore equal to Chinese investors. It is illegal for foreign investors to own a majority in a television company.

The DPP also said the firm owed the public and the government an explanation as to why it had failed to pay taxes for the past three years.

Chiu Chuei-chen (邱垂貞), chief of the DPP's Welfare State Alliance faction, yesterday called on the pan-blue alliance to stop politicizing "a legal matter."

Chiu said that although he realized the government's drastic approach might sabotage its image, national dignity would be undermined if the matter was not dealt with.

"No matter if its investors are from Hong Kong or from China -- it's foreign investment," Chiu said. "We refuse to tolerate any intimidation exerted by a media outlet that is entirely controlled and financed by Chinese investors, and we are asking the GIO [Government Information Office] not to quail in the face of this bully and to continue to probe into the matter."

Chiu also cast doubts on the station's claim that it suffers from financial problems, allowing it to abstain from paying taxes over the past three years.

The pan-blue alliance yesterday lambasted the government for "trampling on the freedom of the press," and vowed to mobilize the public to stage a protest.

"We are safeguarding not only the freedom of TVBS, but that of all media, no matter what their political stance is," PFP caucus whip Hwang Yih-jiau (黃義交) said. "We are strongly averse to the DPP government's ruthless suppression of TVBS, and committed to guarding press freedom."

Hwang said that the GIO does not have the right to smear the image of the TV station, unless TVBS has committed a criminal act.

Calling the government an "authoritarian regime," PFP Legislator Li Yong-ping (李永萍) criticized the government for "stringently clamping down on press freedom."

"Shame on the GIO, shame on Premier Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) and shame on GIO Minister Pasuya Yao (姚文智)," she said.

If the station's capital structure was flawed, Lee said that she was curious to know why the GIO's review committee approved the station's license-renewal application in July.

She also questioned the GIO's argument that the station has violated media regulations restricting foreign shareholders from holding more than a 50 percent stake, saying that the law regulates only "direct foreign investment."

Lee said that her caucus will team up with the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and refuse to review the GIO's budget, and will ask the legislature to pass a resolution to ask the GIO to keep its hands off the media, letting its successor, the national communication commission (NCC), take care of the matter.

PFP Legislator Chang Hsien-yao (張顯耀) asked Yao to offer an apology and step down.

Meanwhile, the KMT caucus yesterday made public a phone number for the GIO. It asked the public to call the agency and voice grievances.

They also asked the public to stage a protest, and called on the GIO to "rein in its horses" before it is too late.

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