Thu, Mar 19, 2015 - Page 1 News List

Media activists urge NCC to probe Next TV, Tzu Chi

GAGGED, BOUND:If the Buddhist Compassion Relief Tzu Chi Foundation pressured Next TV to clamp down on talk show hosts the government must act, they said

By Shelley Shan  /  Staff reporter

Academia Sinica research fellow Huang Kuo-chang, third right, reads a statement in front of the National Communications Commission in Taipei yesterday.

Photo: Lo Pei-der, Taipei Times

Activists from media watchdog groups yesterday asked the National Communications Commission (NCC) to investigate whether the Buddhist Compassion Relief Tzu Chi Foundation pressured Next TV (壹電視) to stop covering controversial issues involving the foundation and whether Next TV’s management impeded freedom of the press by interfering in the production of programs.

The foundation’s financial status has been under media scrutiny since Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) questioned a land-acquisition case in Neihu District (內湖), in which the foundation sought to change the registered use of the land.

However, Peng Wen-cheng (彭文正) and his wife, Amanda Lee (李晶玉), who host Next TV’s political Jeng Chin Talk (正晶現時批) show, resigned on Monday after allegedly receiving a gagging order from the TV station’s upper management on issues related to the foundation.

Commenting on their resignations, Peng said on Facebook: “Tzu Chi thought they could shut the mouth of Next TV, but they cannot shut mine or the public’s,” adding that the foundation needs to answer the public’s questions.

Humanist Education Foundation executive director Joanna Feng (馮喬蘭) said the commission should establish a committee to investigate whether Peng’s allegations are true.

She said Tzu Chi should issue a public statement and promise to respect the freedom of the press, adding that the commission should keep records of TV stations if they are found to have suppressed press freedom so that it can consider these records when reviewing license renewal applications.

Taiwan Citizen Media Cultural Association executive director Sylvia Feng (馮賢賢) said that she read on Peng’s Facebook page that somebody informed the commission that the program had published a headline describing Tzu Chi as a cult. She said that Next TV clearly wanted the program’s production team to take the blame after it was asked by the commission to explain the headline.

“If what Peng said is true, it was a serious infringement of press freedom, which the NCC should defend,” she said.

Academia Sinica researcher Huang Kuo-chang (黃國昌) said that ERA TV chairman Lien Tai-sheng (練台生) had promised to defend the freedom of the press and free speech when he acquired Next TV. Haung said investigating the charges of management interference would not only support Peng and Lee, but also defend the independence of the press.

Taiwan Media Watch executive director Kevin Lee (李惠仁) questioned whether the commission had dual standards when handling complaints about media content.

However, Lee did not think that Peng should have resigned in protest against the alleged management pressure.

“As a journalism professor, Peng should continue to fight until the end. If he holds up the white flag and surrenders because of the pressure, does it not send a message to his students that they should do the same if a similar thing happens to them?” Lee said.

Commission Chief Secretary Jason Ho (何吉森) said the NCC does not have dual standards when handling complaints from the public, adding that it informs media outlets whenever it receives complaints about them.

“The existence of the commission is to ensure that constitutionally protected freedom of speech is not infringed upon and that the professionalism of the media can be fully respected.” Ho said. “The commission only investigates if the television station is suspected of violating any broadcasting regulation, otherwise the commission could be accused of overstepping its authority.”

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