The legislature’s Transportation Committee yesterday gave preliminary approval to an amendment to the Broadcasting and Television Act (廣播電視法) proposed by the National Communications Commission (NCC), paving the way for the issue of new radio and TV licences.
In 2002, the Control Yuan said regulations in the act contradicted Article 94 in the Budget Act (預算法), which mandates that frequencies be issued through an “open auction or public invitation to tender.”
The amendment will enable the NCC to assign frequencies through panel reviews, open auctions, public invitations to tender or other methods, depending on the type of broadcaster applying for a licence.
The proposed change has drawn much attention as many underground radio stations hope to become legal by obtaining licences.
The NCC is considering giving out 155 licences for radio stations. It is also planning to issue a new batch of terrestrial TV licences.
However, lawmakers at the Transportation Committee were divided over the amendment.
Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislators Kuo Jung-chung (郭榮宗), Kuo Wen-chen (郭玟成) and Wang Sing-nan (王幸男) urged the NCC to quickly issue new radio licences, as the government crackdown on underground radio stations has left thousands jobless.
Kuo Jung-chung asked the NCC to halt the crackdown during the transitional period, while Kuo Wen-chen said the crackdown had forced many illegal operators to spend more than NT$200,000 buying airtime from legal operators.
Wang said the NCC could not simply auction licences as this would give wealthy investors an unfair advantage.
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislators Hung Hsiu-chu (洪秀柱) and Chu Fong-chi (朱鳳芝) asked whether the amendment would further dilute shrinking advertising revenues for radio operators.
There are 171 radio stations competing for NT$3 billion (US$100 million) in advertising revenue, they said, adding there was an average of seven radio stations per 1 million people, far higher than in Japan and South Korea, which have about one station per million inhabitants.
NCC Chairperson Su Herng (蘇蘅) said that as radio operators had hardly been affected by the global economic downturn, there is room for more players to come in.
In related news, the NCC said 26 TV stations had agreed to either completely stop airing “infomercials” or limit the broadcasts of such programs to up to an hour per day.