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Sun, Apr 22, 2001 - Page 2 News List

Future of public TV uncertain

MANAGEMENT MISERIES Footdragging on the part of the government has left Taiwan's Public Television Service without clear leadership for the future

By Joyce Huang  /  STAFF REPORTER

The role of public television in Taiwan is unclear. Problems with the budget and programming quality correspondingly influence ratings.

PHOTO: CHIANG YING-YING, TAIPEI TIMES

The government's failure to appoint members to the Public Television Service's (PTS) board before March 1, has resulted in confusion surrounding the station's future management, members of its supervisory committee said yesterday.

"With almost two month's delay, the Government Information Office (GIO) and the Legislative Yuan have not only violated the Public Television Law, but also shown their lack of concern about the station's interests," said Ho Te-fen (賀德芬) a member of the station's supervisory committee. Ho is also a professor of law at National Taiwan University.

First proposed in 1980, PTS finally began broadcasting in 1998. A 10-member board and a five-person supervisory committee were set up to monitor the station's management and to elect its chairman, who would be in charge of forming the management team to run the station. As the three-year term for both the board and the supervisory committee came to an end this year, however, the GIO was supposed to recommend a list of new members and submit the list to a review committee whose members would be recommended by the legislature, for approval by March 1.

Director of the GIO Su Tzen-ping (蘇正平) said that the cause of the delay was that the legislature had not established a review committee to select new board members. But Ho put the blame on both the GIO and the legislature, which, she said, recommended "mostly politicians, who try to interfere with the station's policies and personnel."

"Politicians exert their influence to control the media [and the PTS]. You can see how absurd it has become," Ho said, adding that the Public Television Law strictly forbids any government or party official from taking part in the selection process.

The New Party has nevertheless recommended its convener Hsieh Chi-ta (謝啟大) to join the review committee while the KMT has recommended its vice chairman Helen Lin (林澄枝) and former GIO head Chao Yi (趙怡), throwing the committee's neutrality into doubt.

"If a precedent [to allow politicians in the review committee] is set, it may endanger the station's reform and future programming policies," independent legislator Chu Hui-liang (朱惠良) said, adding that professionalism should be the top priority, not party interests.

Despite the objections of Ho and Chu, the KMT-dominated legislature has agreed on the nominations of Chao and Lin, but remains deadlocked over that of Hsieh.

The delay has postponed the renewal of the station's management team. This has raised questions about the legitimacy of the current management team, which should have left office on March 1. The incumbent chairman Wu Feng-shan (吳豐山) has offered to continue in post without pay from April while most members of the board and the supervisory committee have refused to review the station's budget for the next year.

Despite all the difficulties, the clauses in the Public Television Law, which limit the PTS' funds, are likely to be erased during the current legislative session. Under the law, the government was obliged to subsidize the PTS in its first year of operation -- an appropriated budget of NT$1.2 billion -- and the subsidy was to be gradually reduced in subsequent years by a rate of 10 percent per year. In its sixth year of operation, the subsidy will be reduced by half to NT$600 million.

"The Cabinet will propose that the legislature delete these clauses and embrace the idea of maintaining the station's annual budget at a fixed amount of NT$900 million," Su said, adding that some legislators had expressed their support for such a proposal.

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