Mon, Aug 08, 2005 - Page 3 News List

Academics give GIO a thumbs-up

LONG NEEDED Monopolist TV channel owners were broadcasting rubbish and thought themselves to be invulnerable, scholars said, and needed a good lesson

By Jewel Huang  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Government Information Office's (GIO) rejection of license renewals to seven cable-TV channels has brought about strong criticism from politicians and media proprietors over the past week, but academics specializing in mass communication as well as legal experts have given the move a thumbs-up.

Many see it as the beginning of a reform of a domestic mass media that has been vilified by audiences for years, and the start of a weeding-out of junk TV.

"I think the time is ripe for the government to do something to reform our mass media," Lin Yuan-hui (林元輝), a professor at National Chengchi University's Graduate School of Journalism, said yesterday.

"Actually, Taiwan's mass media has never really changed in nature even though martial law was lifted 17 years ago. Much of the media is still manufacturing news and stories with no sources at all," Lin said.

He said that the situation had actually become worse from increased commercial pressure.

"I believe that few people in Taiwan would disagree that the current news channels have become one of the major sources of social problems," Lin said.

"The public's toleration of fast-food news and shitty programs has reached its limit and I think the government's action was an appropriate response to public demand," he said.

The government's action also called the bluff of media operators such as Eastern Multimedia Group (EMG) president Gary Wang (王令麟), who has derided the government as a paper tiger, Lin said.

"These TV channel owners may be surprised that there was such a strong public outcry against their rubbishy news quality, but the most surprising thing is that the government would act for the public," Lin said.

"I would not object to describing the GIO's rejection of license renewal as a strategy of `executing one as a warning to a hundred,' which I think might be a necessary expedient to employ," Lin said. "Things have their order of priority and I believe the government has evaluated the advantages and disadvantages in making such a decision."

Liu Ching-yi (劉靜怡), a member of the GIO's committee in charge of reviewing TV channels' license renewal applications, said yesterday that she did not think manipulating license-renewal could really end the current malaise of the local media, but agreed that some structural control was needed at this point.

Lin is a professor at the Graduate Institute of National Development at National Taiwan University specializing in information and telecommunications law.

"A democratic country would definitely avoid implementing control over contents. But if the TV channel owners, under the name of press freedom, simply ignore their social responsibilities, then this would be another matter in terms of a definition of freedom," Liu said.

Facing accusations by pan-blue legislators that the committee members were "hired academics lacking professionalism," Liu said that she had suggested the GIO make public all the records, including transcripts of verbal discussions, regarding the review process. Media proprietors' statements that they promised to improve should also be shown on the Web so that people might be able to make an informed judgment on the facts.

Liu said that those TV channels that did not obtain licenses should check how different the programs they broadcast were from the proposals they submitted to the GIO six years ago to get the licenses in the first place.

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