Tue, Dec 23, 2008 - Page 3 News List

Civic groups lend support to cash-starved TV station

By Loa Iok-Sin  /  STAFF REPORTER

Civic groups and film directors rallied outside the Legislative Yuan in support of the Public Television Systems (PTS) yesterday, demanding that the legislature unfreeze PTS’ budget and remove a budget review resolution adopted earlier this month.

“If lawmakers think PTS has some problems, it should try to resolve them according to the law, or by asking PTS management during question-and-answer sessions at legislative meetings.

If they believe there are problems with PTS board directors [they should] expose the problems to the public,” film director Lin Cheng-sheng (林正盛) told the demonstrators. “PTS is supposed to be the TV station of the public.”

“But never, never, try to sanction the PTS by freezing its budget,” he said.

The Legislative Yuan froze PTS’ budget of NT$900 million (US$27 million) last year. Half of that was unfrozen earlier this year, while the rest remains frozen.

Earlier this month, the Leglislative Yuan passed a resolution proposed by the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislative caucus stipulating that all budgets for PTS programs must be subject to case-by-case review before being approved and used.

The move was seen by many as a revival of censorship. The government and the KMT caucus argued that only the budget, not program content, would be reviewed.

Many, including Chuang Yi-tseng (莊益增), the director of the documentary Let It Be (無米樂), are unhappy about the situation.

“We don’t really trust our legislature or the government,” Chuang said. “Of course they say they wouldn’t look at the content, but I wonder if my documentary would have passed the budget review if the review system were in place.”

Let It Be, released in 2004 and funded by the PTS, was a documentary that criticized the government’s agricultural policy.

Media Watch chairman Kuang Chung-shiang (管中祥) agreed.

“You can call it merely budget control, but what would people really think when they send in their film proposal for budget review? Wouldn’t there be a psychological impact, whether intended or not?” Kuang asked.

So far, the KMT caucus remains insistent on the proposal and the groups urged all PTS supporters to join a protest on Jan. 1.

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