The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) caucus yesterday condemned what it called a “vicious coordinated attack” on DPP Legislator Yeh Yi-jin (葉宜津) by media subsidiaries of the Want Want China Times Group (旺旺中時集團).
CtiTV, China Television Co (CTV) and the Chinese-language China Times have in the past four days launched non-stop attacks on Yeh after the DPP lawmaker barred Chao Yu-pei (趙育培), special assistant to Want Want China Times Group chairman Tsai Eng-meng (蔡衍明), from speaking on behalf of Tsai at a public hearing.
Yeh said she did not receive notification about Chao’s authorization to speak about a bid by Want Want China Broadband (旺中寬頻) — a Want Want China Times Group subsidiary — to acquire the cable TV services owned by China Network Systems (CNS, 中嘉網路), a NT$76 billion (US$2.57 billion) merger which could affect a quarter of television-owning households nationwide.
All DPP lawmakers, except Yeh, attended a press conference yesterday to show their support for their colleague.
DPP caucus whip Ker Chien-ming (柯建銘) said Want Want China Times Group should not abuse the power of the media to reap commercial benefits, adding that what Yeh did represented the position of the DPP and the party would not back down in the face of such attacks.
DPP Legislator Pan Men-an (潘孟安) called on the National Communications Commission (NCC), which regulates the electronic media, to “toughen up” and for the media group to handle the incident professionally.
Other DPP lawmakers, including Chao Tien-lin (趙天麟), Kuan Bi-ling (管碧玲) and Wu Ping-jui (吳秉叡), said that CtiTV had made up stories by taking comments out of context from different interviews to make it look like the lawmakers were “criticizing Yeh, when in fact they had asked us different questions.”
“I’m not sure if this is the darkest moment in the history of Taiwanese journalism, but it would definitely count as one of the darkest hours,” Chao said.
The group’s attack on Yeh showed exactly why the merger should be rejected, because the group cannot maintain its neutrality, Kuan added.
The Central News Agency (CNA) quoted CtiTV yesterday as saying that its handles news coverage on “merit” and that it would not comment further on the allegations.
Chao was quoted in the same CNA report as calling on lawmakers not to use their political power to intervene and kill the merger.
Meanwhile, the NCC yesterday announced it would hold another public hearing on the merger bid on May 7.
The commission held an administrative hearing and a public hearing on the deal last year.
The second public hearing will be presided over by National Communication Commission Chairperson Su Herng (蘇蘅) and will address several major issues, including media ownership and independence, media acquisition and diversity of media contents, investment in digital cable television services, consumer and public interests, and mechanisms ensuring that different channels can be included in the cable television services without discrimination, the commission said.
The NCC said it has collected clips of CtiTV news broadcasts in relation to the DPP lawmakers’ allegations of attacks on Yeh and other DPP lawmakers, and would first submit the materials to CtiTV’s ethics committee. The station was asked to forward the results of that review to the commission.
The NCC said the May 7 hearing would be divided into morning and afternoon sessions.