Organizers of an anti-media monopoly protest yesterday visited major political parties and received positive responses to their advocacy and their call for legislation to regulate media company’s market shares.
Journalists, journalism professors and associations, students and NGOs gave letters to the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), the Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) and the People First Party (PFP) asking for their support at a protest scheduled for tomorrow in Taipei.
The demonstration, which was sparked by the conditional approval of a NT$76 billion (US$2.54 billion) deal allowing the Want Want China Times Group (旺旺中時集團) to acquire some of the cable TV services owned by China Network Systems (CNS, 中嘉網路), was organized to fight media monopolies. It also calls for respecting professional journalism standards and stricter monitoring of media operations by the National Communications Commission (NCC).
“We are pleased by the positive responses from the parties and their pledge to initiate legislation on an anti-media monopoly act,” Association of Taiwan Journalists president Chen Hsiao-yi (陳曉宜) said.
Also among the delegation were Chang Chin-hua (張錦華) and Hung Chen-ling (洪貞玲), both journalism professors at National Taiwan University, student representative Lin Fei-fan (林飛帆) and Citizen Watch on Media Reform secretary-general Yeh Ta-hua (葉大華).
The delegation received a warm reception from the DPP, which sent eight party officials, including DPP Secretary-General Lin Hsi-yao (林錫耀) and caucus whip Ker Chien-ming (柯建銘), to the 60-minute meeting.
The DPP supports the group’s appeals and legislative proposal because they are consistent with the party’s positions, Lin said.
The issue of media development has always been high on the DPP’s priorities, Lin said, adding that the deal could jeopardize freedom of speech because the Want Want-CNS group would affect about one-quarter of households with a TV nationwide.
Ker said the DPP’s insistence on NCC canceling its conditional approval of the Want Want deal due to its flawed process.
“We insist that the deal has to be reviewed again,” Ker said.
He said anti-media monopoly legislation would have to win the support of the KMT, which has a majority in the legislature.
The DPP has called for people to participate in the protest with a radio advertisement by DPP Chairman Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌).
TSU Secretary-General Lin Chih-chia (林志嘉) told the delegation that the party would support the protest and the proposed legislation, adding that his party insisted the deal must be voided.
KMT Culture and Communication Committee Director Hsiao Hsu-tsen (蕭旭岑) said in his meeting with the representative that his party “respects the appeals” and that he would convey the message to his superiors, though he did not pledge to support the proposed legislation.
PFP Deputy Secretary-General Liu Wen-hsiung (劉文雄) said the party supported the ideas behind the protest, but did not pledge to support the proposed law.
The PFP supported media reform because PFP Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) had been the victim of unfair news reporting and media bias during January’s presidential election campaign, Liu said.
Meanwhile, NCC Chairperson Howard Shyr (石世豪) said during his meeting with DPP legislators that the commission had issued a ruling on the CNS bid, adding that the commission could only hold another review after the group submits a new application.
Under the conditional approval, Want Want China Times Group chairman Tsai Eng-meng (蔡衍明) and his son must completely dissociate themselves from the management of CtiTV news, while China Television’s news channel must be changed into a non-news channel and have an independent editorial system.
The lawmakers said the commission should put the matter on the agenda of its weekly meeting next week. In response, Shyr said that the commission had already set the weekly agenda.
Shyr’s reply enraged DPP legislators Tuan Yi-kang (段宜康) and Kuan Bi-ling (管碧玲), who left before the meeting ended.
Even if Want Want submits a new application, Shyr said that the commission would first consider if there were anything different in the application before reviewing the case. Shyr said the commission would examine all the conditions in the ruling to determine whether the Tsai family had complied and completely dissociated itself from CtiTV news.
As to the protest, Shyr said the commission would respond, but he did not say whether he would accept the petition in person.