Thu, Jan 16, 2003 - Page 4 News List

English news service coming to Taiwan TV

11 O'CLOCK NEWS Under a GIO initiative, viewers will soon be able to tune in to an English-language broadcast of the day's main events

By Ko Shu-Ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

Starting Feb. 1, television viewers will be able to see locally produced English-language news programs as part of the government's efforts to create an English friendly environment for both locals and foreigners.

Addressing the weekly closed-door Cabinet affairs meeting yesterday morning, Hung Chiang-chuan (洪瓊娟), director of the Cable Television Department of the Government Information Office, said that the purpose of the government initiative is two-fold.

"On the one hand, we'd like to let foreigners better understand what's going on in Taiwan. On the other hand, we'd like to upgrade the nation's English ability," she said.

According to Hung, the government will put down NT$10 million to have contracted television stations produce English-language news programs to be aired on cable and terrestrial channels. The programs will be available seven days a week, either between 11pm and 11:30pm or 7am and 7:30am.

The 30-minute program will include a 10-minute report on local politics and the economy, a three-minute culture-related special report, two- to three-minute report on government policies, a three-minute English-learning section, a three-minute report on the foreign community in Taiwan and a two-minute weather report.

On the weekends, the weather report will be replaced by in-depth reports on various topics such as tourism, agriculture, culture and celebrities.

The government wants to encourage cable-service providers to offer English-language news programs on channels with strong signals and better reception.

To that end, the government will include an evaluation of viewer and subscriber satisfaction as part of its three-year review of the program.

The Cable Radio and Television Law stipulates that the government cannot require cable service providers to broadcast programs of any particular nature or specific language.

It also states that only the 50 most popular program services can be placed in the broadcast frequencies with stronger signals and better reception.

A poll conducted by the Gallop last year showed that three of the English-language news channels--CNN, CNBC, and BBC -- were not among the 50 most popular channels in Taiwan.

While the US-based news channel CNN ranked 54th in northern Taiwan, its ranking dropped to 60th in central Taiwan and 73rd in the south.

CNBC ranked 68th in the north, 76th in central Taiwan and 73rd in southern Taiwan.

BBC was placed 83rd in the north, 81st in central Taiwan and 65th in the south.

In all, 34 out of the nation's 64 cable-service providers offer CNN; 33 of them provide CNBC; and only one offers BBC.

To encourage service providers to offer quality channels instead of quantity, the government also plans to push a-payment system. Under that system, viewers could, if they so chose, pay more to subscribe premium channels such as HBO or Cinemax and pay less for ordinary channels.

In addition, the government plans to implement a three-phase program to protect the industry from monopolization.

Currently, the market has five conglomerates plus 23 independent service providers. Of the nation's 47 zones with cable service, 30 of them -- or about 60 percent -- are monopolized by one single service provider. The government hopes to gradually integrate the 47 zones into one.

To offer viewers more choice, the government also plans to allow fixed-line telecommunication providers to enter the market.

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