Taipei City Mayor Ma Ying-jeou (
But the Government Information Office (GIO) poured cold water on Ma's suggestions, saying opening up licensing was no panacea as Taiwan's limited market will only lead to industry mergers.
Ma unleashed his attack on the cable TV industry at yesterday's Cabinet meeting that came in the wake of the city government's move to penalize four cable companies for failing to stop the broadcast of unlicensed channels.
All four are run under the banner of Eastern Multimedia Co Ltd (
The four were fined a total of NT$12 million on Tuesday and Wednesday. They finally agreed to stop broadcasting the unlicensed channels after the GIO's intervention in the dispute Wednesday, GIO officials announced later that evening.
But Ma said the representatives behind the unlicensed channels had shown "outrageous" attitudes when negotiating with city officials.
"An elected official on the national level even sent out a message that he would prepare NT$100 million to pay the fines," Ma said yesterday afternoon, when asked about his statements at the morning Cabinet meeting.
"Such a mentality means that as long as you are rich, you can break the law. We consider that totally unacceptable," Ma said.
"So at the Cabinet meeting I said that if this person was prepared to pay NT$100 million, then I would fine him more than that," he said.
When asked if he would publicly identify the elected official, Ma said, "everybody knows who he is, so there is no need for me to announce it."
Independent legislator Tsai Hau (
Tsai denied Ma's accusation.
"I never talked about the money. I only said there is no need [for the city government] to try to suppress us with fines," Tsai told the Taipei Times yesterday.
"Besides," he said, "I am not a part of a conglomerate. I am only an ordinary citizen."
But Tsai has been associated with the Eastern Multimedia group, one of the two conglomerates that have control over 80 percent of the cable TV market, including both channel agents and system operation businesses.
Acting on a request from the city council's education committee earlier in the week, Ma outlined several measures at the Cabinet meeting aimed at improving the cable TV market.
The major suggestion was to urge the GIO to allow more cable companies to offer service in a single district, thereby offering consumers more choice.
After the Cabinet meeting, GIO director Chao Yi (
Chao said the fact that the number of cable companies islandwide shrank from 600 to the current level of about 70 since the early 1990s is an indication of the limited size of Taiwan's market.
But Ma said even if the central government has no plans to open up more licenses, it should take steps to supervise the market more closely in order to safeguard consumers' rights.
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