Fri, Mar 30, 2007 - Page 2 News List

Critics protest at TVBS HQ over gangster footage

MUCKRAKING Viewers were urged to boycott the station and there were calls for top brass to face the music in the wake of a controversial broadcast

By Shih Hsiu-chuan, Mo Yan-chih and Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTERS

TV talk show host Wang Pen-hu, sitting, and Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Wang Shih-cheng, at rear, demonstrate outside TVBS headquarters yesterday demanding that the station's general manager, Lee Tao, step down over the gangster footage scandal.

PHOTO: CNA

Denouncing the shooting and broadcasting of footage of a gangster by TVBS, critics yesterday said the incident highlighted the need for reform of the media with some demanding that TVBS general manager Lee Tao (李濤) step down.

Association of Taiwan Journalists (ATJ) president Chen Hsiao-yi (陳曉宜) said yesterday that the incident exposed the chronic problem of media outlets failing to verify sources before broadcasting programs and of muckraking for ratings.

Chen said the incident, in which TVBS reporter Shih Chen-kang (史鎮康) allegedly shot the footage also shows that some news workers have no qualms about compromising their professionalism in the drive for ratings.

The incident has not only destroyed the reputation of a reporter, it has also left TVBS' journalistic reputation damaged, she said, adding that all members of the media should conduct serious soul-searching on the matter.

The ATJ head said it was unfair that only the reporter had been fired, while his superiors, including the TVBS management, got off scot-free.

The Taiwan Bugle Society yesterday urged the National Communications Commission (NCC) to probe the ownership structure of TVBS and revoke its operating license if it were found to be foreign-owned.

Society chairman Chung Nien-huang (鍾年晃) said the NCC must mete out a swift and severe punishment but added that he did not have much confidence in the body.

The station could be subject to a fine of between NT$200,000 (US$6,250) and NT$2 million according to the Satellite and Broadcasting Law (衛星廣播電視法). The channel could also face a shut-down of between three days and three months.

Meanwhile, shouting "Shut Down TVBS!" and "Shame on TVBS!," angry pan-green Taipei City councilors and members of a pro-independence group yesterday urged a boycott of the station.

Although TVBS fired Shi and chief correspondent Chang Yu-kun (張裕坤) and claimed that it had not initially been informed of the source of the video, Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) Taipei City Councilor Chien Yu-yen (簡余晏) and Democratic Progressive Party Taipei City (DPP) Councilor Chuang Rei-hsiung (莊瑞雄) condemned Lee for shifting all the blame onto the two reporters.

"The reporters were just scapegoats in this incident. Lee and the station will continue pressuring reporters to come up with sensational scoops," said Chien at the protest held in front of the station's building yesterday.

The protesters pledged to stage a larger demonstration to air if the NCC failed to give a penalty to the station that meets the public expectation, Chuang said.

Accusations that TVBS is 100 percent owned by Chinese capital was brought up by DPP lawmakers.

"The fact that TVBS is controlled by China explains why it often runs footage smearing Taiwan and its image. For example, a TVBS report accusing Taiwanese duck farmers of using tar to defeather their birds was aimed at promoting roast duck [imported from] Beijing," DPP Legislator Hsu Kuo-yung (徐國勇) said at a press conference.

He was referring to a TVBS report broadcast in December.

The Department of Health and Council of Agriculture later conducted an inspection of duck farms and found no evidence that tar was being used at any of them.

TSU lawmakers told a separate press conference that TVBS had made "an almost unforgivable mistake."

"Given the Chinese funding of TVBS, China might be an accomplice in the matter, in an attempt to influence Taiwan's political and economic development as well as social stability," TSU Legislator Tseng Tsahn-deng (曾燦燈) said.

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