Thu, Jul 26, 2012 - Page 1 News List

Want Want cleared to buy CNS TV arm

I WANT WANT, I GET:The media giant has been given a green light to expand into cable television service despite warnings that the decision would create a ‘media beast’

By Shelley Shan  /  Staff reporter

University students wear masks during a protest against a bid by Want Want Group for 11 cable TV services owned by China Network Systems outside the National Communications Commission in Taipei yesterday.

Photo: Liu Hsin-de, Taipei Times

The Want Want China Times Group can officially branch out into the nation’s cable television service market after the National Communications Commission (NCC) conditionally approved the ownership change to cable television services previously owned by China Network Systems (CNS) late last night.

The bid to purchase CNS’ cable television services was launched by Want Want China Broadband, which is affiliated with Want Want China Times Group.

The deal drew substantial attention as it involves the merger of one of the nation’s most influential media groups and the second-largest multiple cable service owner. Want Want China-Times Group owns Chinese-language daily China Times and Want Daily as well as CTiTV, China Television and China Times Weekly magazine. The 11 cable television services under review this time were estimated to have about 1.1 million subscribers.

The transaction is valued at NT$76 billion (US$2.52 billion), which the Financial Times has characterized as the largest media purchase in recent years.

NCC Chairperson Su Herng (蘇蘅) said the commission has outlined three conditions which included that Want Want China Times Group Chairman Tsai Eng-meng (蔡衍明) and his family must not have anything to do with the management of CTiTV’s news channel and that China Television’s news channel must change its operational plan to become a non-news channel. Tsai was scheduled to visit the commission for an interview with four of the NCC’s commissioners, including Su and commissioners Liu Chorng-jian (劉崇堅), Chang Shi-chung (張時中) and Wei Shyue-win (魏學文).

Tsai caused a stir at the Transportation and Communication Building when he arrived around 2pm yesterday.

The bid to purchase CNS’ cable television services was launched by Want Want China Broadband, which is affiliated with Want Want China Times Group.

Prior to the review meeting yesterday, the commission held a public hearing and an administrative hearing on the deal. Before the review meeting started yesterday morning, about a dozen college professors and media experts submitted a petition to the NCC, which called on the nation’s media overseer to reject the application for a change to ownership on the grounds of safeguarding democratic values and protecting press freedoms. They were also joined by 200 college students opposing the formation of a “media beast.”

Three other commissioners — NCC spokesperson Chen Jeng-chang (陳正倉), Weng Hsiao-ling (翁曉玲) and Chung Chi-hui (鍾起惠) — withdrew from the review after Want Want China Times Group posted their pictures in its Chinese-language China Times and accused them of giving the group a hard time when the commission reviewed a deal in which Want Want Holdings purchased the China Times in 2008.

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