Wed, Aug 23, 2006 - Page 2 News List

Protesters demand TVBS apology over harassment

PITCHING TOGETHER Demonstrators furious about the media's treatment of baseball star Wang Chien-ming's family let their feelings be known in Taipei yesterday

By Max Hirsch  /  STAFF REPORTER

A student protest blocked off the parking lot outside the Taipei offices of TVBS yesterday, drawing a lively throng of reporters and demonstrators.

Camera crews from major domestic TV networks descended on the demonstration as police from the Taipei City Police Department's Zhongzheng First Police District Station were dispatched to the scene.

The only camera crew missing from the raucous event was that of TVBS, even though the demonstration was literally on the network's doorstep.

But TVBS reporters had good reason not to be at the protest. The protesters' grievances were directed at TVBS; they had come to demand an apology from the network for recent news coverage they claimed had violated the privacy and human rights of New York Yankees pitcher Wang Chien-ming (王建民).

"All six major TV news networks have violated the Wangs' privacy but TVBS' coverage was the most objectionable and led to the media frenzy that infringed on the Wang family's human rights," the protesters said.

The revelation by Wang that he was adopted, revealed in a recent interview with the New York Times, led to reporters besieging his family members for interviews.

On Aug. 17, Wang issued an open letter stating that he would no longer grant interviews to the Taiwanese media due to the harassment of his family.

"TVBS come out! TVBS apologize!" the protesters -- some clad in New York Yankees baseball caps and jerseys -- shouted in unison.

Black Camry cars with tinted windows, marked as TVBS-owned vehicles, periodically drove through the outside parking lot during the four-hour protest, but none stopped.

Finally, after two hours in the rain, a TVBS representative exited the building to address the protesters personally.

"I've been instructed to tell you that I have passed along [your request for an apology] to my superiors," the representative told the protesters.

"What about an apology?" protesters asked.

"I have passed along your concerns to my superiors," the representative repeated and returned behind the line of police.

"They sent a low-level manager to tell us that they would pass our message along," said Lee Ming-tsung (李明璁), a professor of sociology at Taiwan National University and organizer of yesterday's rally.

More than three hours into the demonstration, Lee and other organizers agreed through police intermediaries to meet with a TVBS spokesperson in the building, alone.

Another hour passed before Lee and other protesters emerged from their closed-door meeting with TVBS.

"A high-level spokesman did apologize," Lee announced. "He said that TVBS was sorry and that the network's coverage of Wang in this case was inappropriate. He told us that TVBS will issue a formal apology on its Web site, and it is possible that TVBS will apologize on air, too."

He added that although such an apology was rare in the history of Taiwanese media, he was disappointed that TVBS representatives hadn't apologized in person and on record.

He also said that he would lead a boycott of TVBS programs if the network failed to follow through with its commitment to publicly apologize.

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