Sat, Jan 24, 2009 - Page 3 News List

INTERVIEW: Ma’s election much more than a rotation of power

Worried that the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) would seize total control of all media outlets after becoming the most powerful political party in the country, former Presidential Office secretary-general Chen Shih-meng started broadcasting shows on Happy Radio on Jan. 1. The Taipei Times spoke with him about his plans to change politics

Chen Shih-meng, former Presidential Office secretary-general, speaks with the Taipei Times on Dec. 26.

PHOTO: FANG PIN-CHAO, TAIPEI TIMES

Taipei Times: You were an economics professor before, and have become a professor again after serving in various government positions — so why would you be interested in producing radio shows?

Chen Shih-meng (陳師孟): I got the chance to meet the owner of Happy Radio, Huang (黃), through [Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Tainan City Councilor] Wang Ting-yu (王定宇), and was told that he was considering leasing out his station to KMT lawmakers. I thought it was an obvious move by the KMT to gain control of the media after gaining control of the executive, legislative and judicial branches of the government, and I quickly told Huang that I would rent the station instead.

So, after returning from the US, I talked with Huang. At first he wanted to rent his radio station for NT$6.5 million [US$198,000] a month, which was way above what we could afford. After some more talks, he agreed to give us five hours a day for NT$2 million.

TT: Where will the money come from? With the recession, how do you plan to run the station?

Chen: Yes, the economy is bad, but when we first made our plan in September, the recession wasn’t as bad.

But we’ve already made up our mind — we knew full well that this would not be a profitable investment and we calculated that we could afford more than NT$30 million a month in costs. We expect a loss of NT$3 million to NT$4 million a year for the first two years.

After we had the plan, we started talking to some of our friends. We had a goal of obtaining NT$50 million, and we’ve already received NT$25 million. It wasn’t easy to get this much money in just a month-and-a-half.

Other than the NT$2 million a month in rent, we have to pay for salaries, equipment and other stuff. Right now, we have NT$700,000 from commercials, but the burden is still quite heavy.

Thus we can’t really afford to hire too many people, but we have a lot of volunteers.

TT: What will be the objective of your radio programs?

Chen: We should understand what is on the minds of those who did not vote for [President] Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) on March 22, and stay connected with these people.

I am one of those people, I’ve been frustrated since March and wanted to do something for Taiwan, but I didn’t know how. In elections in the past, [DPP] candidates would invite us Mainlanders to endorse them, but the campaign headquarters did not get in touch with me before the [presidential] election this time. We had to ask to be on the stage ourselves, and we got just five minutes. That didn’t feel good and I believe voters had some thoughts on that as well.

There is probably a need for a new motivation for the people to get rid of this feeling of being pushed back, and we actually appreciate the contribution they made a lot.

There was a Mr Chen who brought NT$50,000 to us for donation. Why did he do that?

I’d received a letter from another Mr Chen who was a retired post office employee who enclosed NT$2,000 in his letter. He said that he wasn’t a public servant, and did not benefit from the 18 percent public-servant special interest rate, so he could only afford NT$2,000, and asked us to “forgive” him.

I read the letter to the public and stressed that this is the kind of support — regardless of the amount — that gives us encouragement. His brother heard [it on the radio] and brought NT$50,000 today. I think there are a lot of people like him in society. They know that we’re not rich so they support us. Hence, we know that we’ll lose some money, but we won’t lose everything.

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