Sat, Mar 10, 2007 - Page 4 News List

Analysis: BCC takeover highlights NCC's role

MEDIA PICKLE Fears of an unregulated market when the commission members resign next January has left the Executive Yuan with a problem that needs solving

By Shelley Shan  /  STAFF REPORTER

Broadcasting Corporation of China chairman Jaw Shaw-kong stands at the entrance of the National Communications Commission headquarters in Taipei on Feb. 9.

PHOTO: LIU HSIN-DE, TAIPEI TIMES

If anything positive has come out of Jaw Shaw-kong's (趙少康) buyout of Broadcasting Corporation of China (BCC), it is probably that it has highlighted the existence and the necessity of the National Communications Commission (NCC), an organization that was created out of an equally controversial legislative process and has since been the target of criticism.

On the day before the Lunar New Year holidays, the commission ruled that the nation's largest radio station must fulfill several requirements before its application for a change in ownership could be approved.

The ruling dictated that the company must first return the frequencies that were previously used to broadcast political propaganda to China to the government.

BCC must also strive to raise the percentage of self-produced programs. And to prevent a potential monopoly in the media market, the commission asked Liang Lei (梁蕾), one of the UFO Network's board directors and Jaw's wife, to reduce her shareholding in UFO Network to below 10 percent.

Also, BCC and UFO must operate as two separate organizations.

The results were surprising to many, since the commission found no serious breaches of the regulations when Jaw was interviewed by the commission in January.

But the controversies surrounding the BCC case went beyond the unexpected verdict. Because it involved the purchase of an asset previously owned by the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), the case had the potential to generate more shouting matches between the Government Information Office (GIO) and NCC than any other case the latter has handled, with the GIO demanding that BCC return the previously mentioned radio frequencies immediately.

Meanwhile, the four companies that possess the majority of BCC's shares are said to be affiliated with Jaw, and have been alleged to be fake operations established to enable him to buy BCC without violating regulations in the Broadcasting and Television Law (廣電法).

To media observers, the BCC case exposed the commission's passivity when it handled such a controversial case.

"Jaw was no fool when he purchased BCC, knowing that he couldn't be touched as long as he fulfilled the minimum requirements of the [Broadcasting and Television] law," said Wei Ti (魏玓), assistant professor in the mass communication department at Tamkang University.

"The commission should have proactively investigated this dubious transaction in the first place. Unfortunately, it only began to question Jaw after the commission had been criticized by the public for doing almost nothing," he said.

Wei pointed to a bigger issue that lies at the center of all broadcasting disputes.

"We have not seen any fundamental changes in communications policies, particularly with regard to the reappropriation and readjustment of the nation's television broadcasters, and telecommunications resources," he added.

workload

The size of the commission's workload and the time a review process consumes perhaps explain the lack of a proactive stance in the BCC case.

Since last year, the commission has had its hands full reviewing cases previously handled by the GIO and the Directorate-General of Telecommunications.

The nine commission members have discussed the application for a Multimedia-On-Demand (MOD) service from Chunghwa Telecom; ETTV-S and Long Shong Movie Station's applications to renew their broadcasting licenses; applications to launch TV stations for mobile phones; reshuffles of channels on the cable television service; and constructing a new formula to determine the base charge for local telephone calls. In every single one of the cases -- whether large or small -- the commission is required to deliver a ruling resulting from a consensus among its members.

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