Thu, Feb 12, 2009 - Page 1 News List

Next Media picks close aide to Ma to head TV station

By Mo Yan-chih  /  STAFF REPORTER

Former Taipei deputy mayor King Pu-tsung (金溥聰) will take up the position of chief executive officer of Next Media’s (壹傳媒集團) new TV station from Monday and promised objective reporting on the government despite being a close aide to President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九).

Both of the Hong Kong publisher’s local publications, the Chinese-language Apple Daily and Next Magazine, published exclusive interviews with King yesterday in which he confirmed he would take the job.

King said the station would report objectively on the Ma administration.

King said he had informed Ma about his new position and that he would continue to advise the Ma administration in private.

King visited Next Media’s headquarters yesterday afternoon but did not comment on his new position. In the interviews published yesterday, King reiterated his promise not to take a formal post with the Ma administration and said he expected the TV station to have an impact on the nation’s political culture.

“I like challenges and being able to create new situations. Returning to politics would only reinforce the stereotypes against me. It’s not fair to Mr Ma and it’s not fair to me,” the Apple Daily quoted King as saying.

When asked whether the TV station would favor Ma and his administration, King said he would not interfere with the selection of news and expected his news team to be free of political leanings.

King, 53, has been one of Ma’s top aides for several years.

He served as commissioner of Taipei City’s Information Department and as Taipei deputy mayor during Ma’s stint as Taipei mayor.

King also played a key role in Ma’s campaigns for Taipei mayor in 1998 and 2002, KMT chairman in 2005 and president last year.

King said he accepted the invitation of Next Media founder Jimmy Lai (黎智英) to serve as CEO because he and Lai shared similar values and political stances and both hoped to establish a TV station with diverse coverage and credibility.

After Ma’s victory in the presidential election last March, King said he would not take a position in Ma’s administration. He went to Hong Kong last summer, where he took up a six-month teaching position as a visiting professor at a Hong Kong university.

Lai has expanded his media empire in Taiwan since 2003, launching Taiwanese editions of the weekly Next Magazine and the Apple Daily newspaper.

The two publications have drawn criticism from the National Communications Commission and the public over a muckraking style and graphic photographs.

Presidential Office Spokesman Wang Yu-chi (王郁琦) yesterday said the president understood and respected King’s decision.

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Wu Yu-sheng (吳育昇) urged the public to respect King’s career plans. Wu said no one could question King’s expertise in media studies simply because of his relationship with Ma.

The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) said yesterday it was inappropriate for the firm to choose someone closely aligned with the president to head its TV station.

“King is a core aide to Ma. King’s political influence is undeniable. [Putting] King in charge of a TV station would mean a return of politics to the media field,” DPP spokesman Cheng Wen-tsang (鄭文燦) said, adding that Ma and King owed the public an explanation.

In response to reporters’ questions on whether King would act as an “underground” Government Information Office minister, DPP Legislator Chen Chi-yu (陳啟昱) said “he has always been [in the Ma government].”

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