Sat, Apr 03, 2010 - Page 3 News List

Proposal seeks an end to cable TV monopolies

BY SHELLEY SHAN  /  STAFF REPORTER

The National Communications Commission (NCC) yesterday proposed an amendment to the Cable Television Act (有線廣播電視法) that would lift restrictions on cable TV broadcasters branching out to different service areas.

The amendment proposes that subscribers of any cable television system must not exceed one-third of the nation’s viewing households. NCC spokesperson Chen Jeng-chang (陳正倉) said the nation has 51 cable television service areas and 63 cable TV broadcasting system operators.

Each service area currently has only one or two cable television broadcasters, as the Cable Television Act bans cable TV broadcasting system operators from offering service outside their own designated service area.

“Essentially, nearly all the cable TV broadcasting system operators have a monopoly in their respective service areas, which also prevents newcomers from coming into the market,” Chen said.

“Without competition, the service charge would remain unchanged and the service quality may never improve. The amendment is designed to end the monopoly by allowing operators to offer services outside their original service areas and allowing any interested investors to enter the market,” Chen said.

The NCC also decided to cap the number of subscribers for each cable television broadcasting system because it does not want operators to have a monopoly in the market, which would enable them to control public opinion, Chen added.

Cable TV broadcasting system operators could continue to offer services in the service areas they currently have. They can also choose to merge with other operators, provided the mergers first secure the NCC’s approval, he added.

Meanwhile, the proposed amendment states the service area must either be a city or a county, not a district. It sets criteria for newcomers in the market.

Apart from providing a digital cable television service, it also requires newcomers who plan to provide national cable TV broadcasting service to have a minimum of NT$4.8 billion (US$150 million) in capital.

The capital for non-national cable TV broadcasting systems, on the other hand, will be determined by the number of viewing households in their service areas, the amendment proposes.

Those offering cable TV services in Sinbei City, for example, may need at least NT$8 million, whereas those providing service in Matsu may only need NT$2 million.

Chen said the proposed amendment also changes the requirement of the “must-carry” channels.

“Currently, the cable TV system is obligated to carry both the Public Television Service (PTS) and other terrestrial television networks,” Chen said. “The amendment will only make PTS, Hakka TV, Taiwan Indigenous Television and Taiwan Macroview Television ‘must-carry’ channels.”

Terrestrial television networks, including Taiwan Television, China Television and Chinese Television Service can negotiate with cable TV broadcasting system operators to assign one channel from each network as a “must-carry” channel.

The proposed amendment would also allow the NCC and local government officials to jointly review the rates submitted by the cable TV broadcasting system operators. Currently, rates are mainly reviewed by local governments.

The proposed amendment would further enable the NCC to plan and regulate the use of public channels, which would be reserved to disseminate public information.

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