The Satellite Television Broadcasting Association (STBA) and legislators from both main parties yesterday accused the National Communications Commission (NCC) of breaking the law and abusing its powers as a media regulator for revoking the broadcasting licence of ERA TV’s variety channel (年代綜合台) earlier this week.
Citing articles 35 to 39 of the Satellite Broadcasting Act (衛星廣播電視法), the association said the commission should have followed a set of procedures before revoking the licence, including warnings, penalties and temporary suspension of broadcasts.
The commission did not strictly follow procedures, which appears to have been against the law, the association said.
It said the commission revoked the licence on the grounds that ERA had failed to meet the conditions set for the renewal of the licence in February — conditions that it said were illegal.
“To say that the commission abused its rights is an understatement,” the association said.
In imposing the conditions, “the commission assumed the authority and functions of the Legislative Yuan,” it added.
“If ERA is to serve as a sacrifice, we can use the incident to consider the future development of TV and the media and to review broadcasting policies,” association executive director Chen Shou-guo (陳守國) said.
Association secretary-general Chong Ruei-chang (鍾瑞昌) said the case would bring tremendous pressure on the 60 channels scheduled to renew their licences in August as the commission has failed to set any clear guidelines on the use of infomercials.
Although the Government Information Office has established some guidelines on infomercials, since 2008, channels have been fined a total of NT$140 million (US$4.68 million) for not distinguishing between TV programs and advertisements, Chong said.
The commission claims ERA’s variety channel had 49 recorded violations in the past six years.
The renewal of the licence for ERA’s variety channel came with conditions stipulating that it must not produce any content that infringes articles 17 and 19 of the Satellite Broadcasting Act for a year and that program reruns must not exceed 60 percent of its daily content for six months.
Responding to the commission’s decision, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) caucus deputy secretary-general Hsieh Kuo-liang (謝國樑) said the NCC should have exhausted every disciplinary measure before revoking the licence.
“Revoking a channel’s licence is tantamount to sentencing it to death,” Hsieh said, adding that the commission should have established a specific set of rules for television stations.
The KMT caucus would support ERA TV if the channel decided to appeal the decision, he said.
Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lawmakers also rallied behind the beleaguered TV station, saying there appeared to have been flaws in the decision process.
As a result, DPP Legislator Kuan Bi-ling (管碧玲) said, the decision might have been illegal.
“What this independent commission did was ... similar to the government waving a watermelon cleaver around,” Kuan said.
DPP lawmakers accused the commission of following directions given by government agencies, which they said were the main instigators behind the controversy.
DPP Legislator Pan Men-an (潘孟安) said that this was likely a “warning” to keep other stations in line.
Other DPP officials said the government must “tread carefully” when handling cases related to the media, adding that government agencies had also played a major role in muddying the line between programs and commercials.