Tue, Mar 05, 2002 - Page 2 News List

Lotto coverage criticized

RESPONSIBILITY Some academics say the media is at least partly to blame for what many have called a lottery frenzy by giving it round-the-clock coverage

By Tsai Ting-I  /  STAFF REPORTER

Representatives from an anti-lottery lobbying group stage a protest in front of the Legislative Yuan yesterday. Peng Tien-hao, right, holds a giant ice cube and an oversized lottery ticket, symbolizing their call to cool down the nation's lottery fever, while Hsu Chia-ching, left, holds a mock lottery ticket bearing the notice ``Warning from the Ministry of Finance: The odds of winning the jackpot are one in 5.24 million.''

PHOTO: CHIANG YING-YING, TAIPEI TIMES

While legislators urge the government to reduce the number of Public Welfare Lottery draws from two a week to one, scholars are also condemning the media's coverage of the lottery.

Vice President Annette Lu (呂秀蓮) yesterday reiterated her remark last month that the lottery is Taiwan's "social landslide" and should be eliminated.

The finance committee of the Legislative Yuan last week asked the Ministry of Finance to take steps to ease public hysteria about the lottery, by publishing warnings on lottery tickets about the low probability of success and the dangers of excessive expenditure on lottery tickets, and reducing the draws to one a week.

Some critics, however, say that the lottery fever is whipped up by the media.

"The media are responsible for reporting what readers and audiences care about, but I doubt whether the lottery is worth 24-hour broadcast coverage and special-report newspaper pages," said Chen Ping-hung (陳炳宏), an associate professor at National Taiwan Normal University's Graduate Institute of Mass Communication.

The public lottery was first drawn on Jan. 22 and has since received saturation coverage by the media. All cable news channels broadcast the draws live every Tuesday and Friday evening and report 24-hours a day on related stories, including items about stations that have sold lucky tickets and people who have predicted winning numbers.

The print media are also providing saturation coverage. Of these, the China Times Express, one of the three main evening newspapers, is alone in offering predictions of winning numbers, which it has done in its four-page special reports on the lottery every Tuesday and Friday since Jan 18. It said in its first report that "Becoming rich is humanity's dream, becoming rich is an activity for the whole people."

It added, "The China Times Express will help you to find the miraculous key to wealth from analysis of scientific statistics and mysterious metaphysics."

As well as purporting to predict lucky numbers, the four-page special reports also advise on "magical phenomena" that they say can forecast lucky numbers.

One of the newspaper's news reports in its Jan. 24 edition effectively promoted its special pages by reporting their accurate prediction of five of the six lucky numbers in one of the previous draws.

Professor Hu Yu-wei condemned the newspaper, saying that only people who had not progressed beyond a very low level of education would believe that lottery numbers could be predicted.

"The decision to print special reports on the lottery is a high-risk one. Audiences will eventually realize that newspapers can't predict lucky numbers and the newspaper will not only lose its credibility but also its reputation and standing in society," Hu said.

"It's ironic that newspapers criticize the lottery, even as they devote extensive space to covering it," Hu added.

The China Times, the China Times Express' sister paper called on the government in its Feb. 20 "Observer" column to take responsibility for easing the so-called "lottery fever" and its negative consequences, which have included at least one suicide -- an unemployed customer who spent his entire savings of NT$25,000 on the lottery, without winning a penny.

The China Times' Feb. 22 edition included a report on the negative impact of the lottery on Taiwan's shrinking consumer goods market.

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