The National Communications Commission yesterday reiterated it had already given conditional approval to Want Want-China Times Group’s (旺旺中時集團) acquisition of the cable TV services owned by China Network Systems (CNS, 中嘉網路), adding that the approval would not take effect until Want Want had fulfilled each and every one of the three conditions outlined by the commission.
The commission announced its ruling on the deal on Wednesday after reviewing the case for 18 months. Based on the ruling, Want Want-China Times Group must fulfill three main conditions: Group chairman Tsai Eng-meng (蔡衍明) and his family members must completely dissociate themselves from the operations of the CTiTV (中天新聞台) news channel; the operational plan for the China Television (CTV, 中視) digital news channel must be changed to make it a non-news channel; and CTV must establish an independent editorial system.
Aside from the three conditions, Want Want also agreed to 25 “commitments” listed by the commissioners. Some of the important ones included giving two free set-top boxes to each household that subscribes to its cable service; providing a monthly subscription fee below the national average; making high-speed Internet services with a bandwidth of 100Mbps available by June next year; and reaching a 100 percent penetration rate for the digital cable TV service by 2014. The group is also banned from establishing new news channels, financial news channels and home shopping channels.
Andy Shieh (謝煥乾), director of the commission’s legal department, said the conditional approval was an administrative ruling issued by the commission and was an unilateral administrative decision, which did not need the approval of the persons involved in the case. Though Want Want said through the media it did not agree to the conditions, Shieh said this did not affect the effectiveness of the ruling.
The three main conditions were set to tackle problems associated with concentration of media ownership and Want Want Group can decide how it wants to fulfill those conditions, he said.
“If they do not accept those conditions, we respect that as well,” he said.
Shieh said the group was clearly informed about the conditions during its interview with commissioners on Wednesday and the group told the commissioners it would have a problem fulfilling those conditions.
Each of those three conditions must be met, or the approval will not take effect, Hsieh said, adding that the commission would follow administrative procedures if the group wanted to reapply.
“If the conditions are not fulfilled, the result will be the same as a rejection of the bid,” he added.
Want Want China Broadband (旺中寬頻), a subsidiary of the group that launched the bid for CNS, said in a statement that it can only evaluate how it might enact the ruling after it receives the official document from the commission, adding that doing so would require the approval of shareholders.
“Mr Tsai Eng-meng, as the largest shareholder [in CTiTV and CTV], cannot sacrifice the interests of other shareholders because of his personal investment in Want Want China Broadband, or they could file lawsuits against him,” the statement said.
In related news, activists opposing the takeover denied they paid students to protest.
"I absolutely did not pay any student to come to the protest [on Wednesday],” said Huang Kuo-chang (黃國昌), an associate researcher at Academia Sinica’s Institutum Iurisprudentiae. “I have absolutely no idea who did this.”