Media analysts attending testimony on the China Times Group’s (中時集團) application to change the management of two of its television stations yesterday urged the National Communications Commission (NCC) to review the case carefully, saying the switch had the potential to destroy the diversity of public opinion.
Last year, the China Times Group was purchased by the China-based Want Want Group (旺旺集團), owned by Taiwanese businessman Tsai Eng-meng (蔡衍明). Aside from Chinese-language daily the China Times, the group also owns China Times Weekly (時報週刊), CTi TV (CTi, 中天電視) and China Television Co (CTV, 中視).
The NCC is authorized by law to review and approve applications for a change of management at both cable TV and terrestrial TV channels. Because the purchase involves a consortium simultaneously owning a daily newspaper, a weekly magazine, cable television channels as well as a terrestrial television channel, the NCC decided last month to hold the meeting yesterday to help it deliver a comprehensive ruling.
CTV chairman Lin Sheng-fen (林聖芬) and CTi chairman Rao Sheng-hsiung (饒勝雄) both attended the testimony, while Tsai and former China Times Group chairman Albert Yu (余建新) were absent. Tsai sent his son Tsai Shao-chung (蔡紹中) as his representative, while Yu sent his lawyer Nigel Li (李念祖). A number of media analysts, representatives of other television stations and civic groups were also invited to attend the testimony, presided over by NCC Chairwoman Bonnie Peng (彭芸).
Pointing to the results of a study by National Taiwan Normal University professor Chen Ping-hung (陳炳宏) this year, Lo Shih-hung (羅世宏), associate professor at National Chung Cheng University’s Department of Communications, said the amount of cross-strait news in the China Times had increased dramatically since December when Want Want acquired the China Times Group.
“Chen said that not only had [cross-strait] news become more prominent, there was more positive news than negative,” Lo said. “This is because of the change of management.”
Lo said audiences often got the same programs on CTi and CTV, showing that the combination of the two television channels did not contribute to the diversity of their programming.
Chiu Hei-yuan (瞿海源), a researcher at Academia Sinica, highlighted the difference between China Times Group founder Yu Chi-chong (余紀忠) and Tsai Eng-meng. While Yu was a newspaper man, Tsai is a businessman, Chiu said, adding that Yu helped facilitate the transition to a democratic society that protects freedom of the press.
“Chaos in the media is caused by capitalists who control the media and free speech,” Chiu said.
Chiu also quoted Tsai Eng-meng’s statement made in an interview with Wealth Magazine last month, in which he said he had asked the newspaper not to criticize President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and his government.
“When he has a bad boss, an employee should leave the company and not criticize the boss,” Tsai Eng-meng was quoted as saying. “Ma Ying-jeou was chosen as boss by everybody, so I think he should not be criticized.”
“Yu used his pen to bring in a new age, but his followers now have to work as corporate lackeys,” Chiu said.
Huang Ming-jye (黃銘傑), law professor at National Taiwan University, said although the acquisition did not seem to change the competition in the market, it brought “a rich dad with a lot of money” into the picture, which may prevent alternative thoughts from being expressed through the consolidation of media resources.