Fri, Mar 25, 2011 - Page 1 News List

Cabinet passes state holdings in media

AMENDMENTS:The NCC says only the restriction on indirect investment by the state would be lifted, while the ban on holdings by political parties would remain

By Shih Hsiu-chuan  /  Staff Reporter

The Cabinet yesterday approved amendments that would allow the government to indirectly hold up to 10 percent of shares in television and broadcasting companies, satellite broadcasting television companies and cable television system operators.

If approved by the legislature, restrictions on holdings by the government in media companies introduced seven years ago by the former Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) administration would be scrapped. The DPP has opposed the proposed revisions, describing them as a threat to media independence and a step that would reverse the course of democracy.

National Communications Commission (NCC) Chairperson Su Herng (蘇蘅) said the proposed changes “met public expectations,” as only the ban on indirect investment by the government would be lifted, while the ban on investments by political parties and the military would remain in place.

Su made the remarks at a press conference following the weekly Cabinet meeting in which amendments to the Broadcasting and Television Act (廣播電視法), the Satellite Broadcasting Act (衛星廣播電視法) and the Cable Television Act (有線廣播電視法) were passed.

The commission has said the relaxation would boost media development without compromising its independence with the introduction of the 10 percent threshold and regulations designed to prevent government control over the media.

Saying that current restrictions have inhibited media development, the government has cited the following examples as reasons for easing the ban: Delta Electronics (台達電) was forced to sell its shares in HD channel provider EVTA TV (愛爾達電視) because Delta is partly owned by some government-owned funds, while Taiwan Mobile Co (台灣大哥大) was not allowed to acquire a stake in cable TV operator Kbro Co (凱擘) because one of the telecoms company’s major investors, Taipei Fubon Bank (台北富邦銀行), is partly owned by Taipei City Government.

The amendments would also prohibit people who act as the government’s representatives in media companies from serving as founders, directors, supervisors or managers, and from interfering with company finances, operations and personnel arrangements.

Another major amendment approved yesterday is designed to step up development of digital media and digital convergence technology, which would allow consumers to access services traditionally provided by a variety of network platforms such as telecommunications, Internet access, and cable TV into one integrated service.

“Taiwan lags way behind other countries in the development of digitization in media and digital convergence,” Su said, and the commission introduced “mandatory measures” to boost the pace of digitization.

Under the proposed amendment to the Cable Television Act, the commission will stop renewing licenses for cable TV system operators that fail to convert their channels into digital ones and will also refrain from issuing licenses to new entrants.

The Cabinet has set a goal of raising the digital cable service penetration rate to 50 percent by 2015, from the current 6 percent — one of the lowest in Asia.

An amendment to the Cable Television Act also proposes lifting restrictions on cable TV system operators expanding their coverage area, but under the condition that a system operator’s share of the market must not exceed one-third of the nation’s total number of viewing households.

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