Want Want China Times Group (旺旺中時集團) yesterday issued an official apology to Academia Sinica associate research fellow Huang Kuo-chang (黃國昌), saying it had verified that Huang had nothing to do with paying students to attend a protest against Want Want’s acquisition of cable television services owned by China Network Systems (CNS, 中嘉網路), adding that it felt sorry for all the trouble the reports had caused him.
The China Times ran a full-page report last month accusing Huang of paying students to protest against the Want Want-CNS deal, while CtiTV, which also belongs to the Want Want China Times Group, gave intense coverage to the story.
However, both news outlets denied they had fabricated the news.
The apology was published in the China Times print edition and on its Web page.
“After thorough investigation, we found that professor Huang had nothing to do with it [paying the student protesters]; the event was organized by someone else,” the group said in its apology.
“We had expressed severe doubts about the truth of Huang’s comments on the event, but we never made up any news,” it added. “For all the trouble we have caused professor Huang with our news reports and criticism, we humbly accept the public’s criticism and sincerely apologize to professor Huang and other relevant personnel. We hope the public will continue to supervise and oversee our work.”
The group also criticized Next Media (壹傳媒集團) for accusing it of organizing the student protest itself in order to frame Huang. It vowed to continue investigating the incident.
In response, Next Media said Want Want China Times Group’s apology was an attempt to shift the focus away from the media monopoly it was creating with its planned acquisition of CNS’ cable television services.
Huang said in a statement yesterday that he could not sense any sincerity in the group’s apology.
“This cheap apology cannot remove the damage caused by low-class reporting,” said Huang, who is currently studying in the US on a Fulbright scholarship. “Nor can it cover the shame of the China Times losing its media qualifications.”
Huang further questioned the type of investigative work that the group had done to associate him with the student protest. He asked if the group understands what intentional distortion meant and whether it had adhered to the journalistic ethics of honesty, fairness, integrity and decency.
He also demanded to know who in the group’s higher management gave the order to rewrite reporters’ stories and launch a massive mudslinging campaign against him, and whether these managers had been held responsible.
“All the incidents that have happened have strengthened my belief that Mr Tsai Eng-meng (蔡衍明) [Want Want China Times Group chairman] is not qualified to manage the media [as a monopoly]. If Mr Tsai refuses to withdraw from the management of the media, we will mobilize the power of civic society to ask him to leave,” he said.
In other developments, Want Want China Times Group yesterday also denied that it intended to make TransAsia Airways chairman Vincent Lin (林明昇) the trustee of CtiTV as a way to fulfill the conditions determined by the National Communications Commission (NCC) when it granted conditional approval to the Want Want-CNS deal.
For the approval to take effect, Tsai and his son, Tsai Shao-chung (蔡紹中), are required to completely dissociate themselves from the operation of CtiTV. Meanwhile, China Television’s (CTV) digital news channel must be changed to a non-news channel. CTV must also have an independent editorial review system. Each of the three conditions must be met for the ruling to take effect.