Fri, Mar 26, 2004 - Page 2 News List

Media watchdogs blast bad TV election coverage

UNRELIABLE Three media-monitoring groups have criticized TV news channels for massaging their own running tallies of votes and sensationalistic reporting

By Cody Yiu  /  STAFF REPORTER

The nation's media manipulated coverage of the counting for last Saturday's presidential election and has provided only one-sided, sensationalistic coverage of the ensuing dispute, three media-monitoring groups said yesterday.

"We are not pleased with the fact that on the day of election, many of the electronic news agencies and television stations exaggerated the tallies of ballots," said Kuan Chung-hsiang (管中祥), an assistant professor at Shin Hsin University, who is also a member of the Media Reform Society.

The nation's numerous television stations each sent reporters to regional polling stations to call in results as they were announced. However, on election day, each station showed different results early in the count.

"After the election, their news coverage has been one-sided and has not allowed any room for a dialogue among different groups of people," Kuan said.

The Media Reform Society comprises about 60 university professors, students and social activists.

In a joint statement, the Media Reform Society, Media Watch and the Communication Students Society said that after the election, many commercial radio and television stations increased the sensationalism of their news talk shows, possibly provoking some viewers and risking the stability of society.

Connie Lin (林育卉), chief executive officer of the Broadcasting Development Fund, a member of the Media Monitor Alliance, said that her group had been expecting the media to massage the ballot figures on election day.

"About two days before the election, our group released a statement urging news media not to exaggerate the ballot count even though we knew such a statement would be to no avail, as exaggerating the ballot count has been done for such a long time," Lin said.

"From research that our fund conducted of shows on the day of the election, by 4:20pm, some television stations were showing that about a million votes had been counted, and by 4:40pm, the number reached 4 million. Such an exaggeration of the ballot count is a shame, as it provides the public with no credibility whatsoever," Lin said.

Lin said that after the vote there were some commentators and talk-show hosts who offered careful analysis of the situation, while others acted in bad faith.

"Some commentators gave careful analysis of the events leading up the today's situation, without trying to stir up sensationalism through the media. However, there are other popular talk-show hosts who are more interested in sensationalism than conducting current affairs analysis," Lin said.

Lin said that the public needs news-related programs with wisdom.

Grace Tu (屠乃瑋), assistant director of the news department at the Public Television Service Foundation, said that the foundation had decided against any exaggerated vote counts on election day.

"We had firmly decided against the idea of exaggerating the ballot count long before the election, and decided to rely on the Central Election Commission [CEC]. In addition, we also asked both political camps if they had their own ballot counting report systems," Tu said.

Tu indicated it was indeed hard to wait for the CEC to tally the votes as commercial news stations had speedy ballot-counting systems of their own.

"It got to a point where it was quite embarrassing for us, as other television stations had millions of ballots counted showing up on their channels while we only had hundreds of ballots. Nevertheless, we wanted to stand firmly in what we believe," Tu said.

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