Campaigns mired in TV squabbling

SCOFFLAWS: It's illegal to broadcast election activities, so the DPP -- and probably the KMT as well -- will broadcast them all the same and call it `entertainment'

By Lin Chieh-yu and Tsai Ting-I  /  STAFF REPORTERS

Wed, Nov 21, 2001 - Page 1

With the official campaign period for the Dec. 1 elections scheduled to begin today, the Central Election Commission (CEC) and the DPP were at loggerheads yesterday over the broadcasting of election campaign activities.

Although the broadcasting of such activities is illegal, the ruling DPP said that it planned to continue to broadcast its events but it would bill them as "evening entertainment" during the official campaign period, which runs through Nov. 30.

The Public Officials' Election and Recall Law states that election campaigning may only take place during a period of time to be determined by the CEC. Campaigning must be confined to the hours between 7am and 10pm and, critically, that "advertisements and campaign activities" may not be broadcast.

Campaigning has in fact been going on for weeks and has been broadcast, following Taiwan's time-honored tradition of observing the law only in the breach.

In the past, the CEC has offered the excuse that its failure to take legal action -- which it is entitled to do -- against parties campaigning prior to the official campaign period has been due to its failure to monitor events. It offered no explanation yesterday for its oversight this year.

The DPP's evening events have been arranged by President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) Premier Voyage of the Century campaign group, throughout Taiwan every night for three weeks. They have been broadcast on TV and the DPP said yesterday that it intends to broadcast some 20 remaining events, having purchased the air time.

A source in the Presidential Office who wished to remain anonymous said that rallies held over the next 10 days would still be broadcast live on cable TV channels, but added that the Election Law and CEC regulations, would be fully observed.

"The president's campaign rallies will become `evening entertainment,' and they will all end before 10pm," said the source.

For its part, the KMT said that it would not broadcast any of its events if the DPP stopped broadcasting President Chen's campaign events.

The KMT has plans to broadcast six campaign events in the coming 10 days, and it too said that unless the DPP scraps its own plans for broadcasts, these events also would now take the form of "evening party."

The People First Party, however, said that it will follow the CEC's regulation and not purchase air time.

The CEC said that the Government Information Office (GIO), the Cabinet-level agency responsible for media affairs, will monitor all broadcast media until the election. The CEC will judge whether broadcasts violate the regulations. TV channels and radio stations will be fined or even have their broadcasting licenses withdrawn in the event of violations.

Meanwhile, in response to the CEC's announcement, all TV stations said that they will not broadcast campaign "advertisements" but some said that they will broadcast "evening entertainment."

"We have discussed these broadcasts with the GIO, which said that these events can be counted as entertainment shows as long as they don't mention elections, campaigns, or individual candidates," said Ma Yung-jen (馬詠仁), deputy general manager of ETTV's news department.

Power TV was reported yesterday to be confused about "the GIO and CEC's different attitudes," especially, they said, as the GIO had informed them that broadcasting campaign events would not violate regulations.

The GIO held a press conference yesterday at which it stated that whether "evening entertainments" could be broadcast was a matter for the CEC.

President Chen started to campaign with his Premier Voyage of the Century group on Nov 1. In mid-November his campaign events started to be broadcast on TVBS and FTV. He has planned to broadcast over 40 events around Taiwan before Dec 1.

Meanwhile, the KMT, PFP and DPP have broadcast party political advertisements since mid-October.