More than 60 civic organizations staged a protest outside the Legislative Yuan yesterday, demanding the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) caucus reconsider a proposal on controlling the budget for Public Television Service (PTS).
The KMT caucus froze the NT$450 million (US$13.5 million) budget for PTS for the second half of this year and has come up with a proposal that all programming budget be approved by the Government Information Office (GIO) first.
The proposal has drawn criticism from the opposition, civic groups, filmmakers and academics, who called it a KMT attempt to control the media.
KMT caucus whip Lin Yi-shih (林益世) said the government would not look into program content, but would only use the mechanism as a budget control measure.
Critics of the measure were not convinced.
Sixty 60 civic groups and 70 film directors have signed a protest letter against the KMT action.
“I think the so-called ‘budget control’ is just an excuse,” said Media Watch chairman Kuang Chung-shiang (管中祥), who led the demonstration.
“Controlling the media is the real goal,” Kuang said.
“Of course there is a control mechanism in public television systems in all countries, but no country does a program by program review like this,” he said.
Lin received the protesters, but the two sides did not reach an agreement.
The demonstrators insisted that the legislature unfreeze the PTS budget and that the KMT caucus change its stance on budget review. Lin agreed that the proposed budget rule may be debated, but said he would not unfreeze the NT$450 million budget for now.
“We've very disappointed with Lin's response. We will continue to act to save the PTS,” Kuang said.
“We will ask GIO Minister Vanessa Shih [史亞平] to help, since she has said that the government has never, and will never put in place censorship at PTS,” he said. “After all, it's the GIO that proposed the PTS budget, and she should make an effort to defend the budget.”