The National Communications Commission (NCC) reiterated yesterday that the decision to revoke the license of ERA TV’s variety channel was absolutely lawful, adding that it had given the station plenty of opportunities to turn over a new leaf.
“Like the Taiwanese proverb said, our good intentions were kissed by the thunder instead [meaning nursing a viper in the bosom],” commission spokesperson Chen Jeng-chang (陳正倉) said in response to strong reactions to the ruling from both ERA and the Satellite Television Broadcasting Association (STBA).
Chen told a press conference that ERA was not penalized for making just one mistake.
He said a taskforce formed by independent media experts conducted a preliminary review of the license renewal application submitted by ERA’s variety channel and proposed rejecting the application because the channel had a history of 49 violations.
However, the commission decided to allow the channel to renew its license in February after taking into account the investment the station had made and the interests of both ERA employees and the audience, Chen said, but the renewal had been granted with two conditions.
ERA was required to strictly abide by Articles 17 and 19 of the Satellite Broadcasting Act (衛星廣播電視法) — which regulate the media contents and hidden advertisements — for a period of a year following the renewal. The channel’s program rerun rate was also limited to 60 percent of its daily content within six months after the renewal, he said.
ERA was told the license would be invalidated if it failed to meet those conditions.
“It was like a student who already had three major demerits and three minor demerits on his record,” Chen said. “The student should have been expelled from school, but was placed on probation instead.”
The channel was fined in 44 of the 49 violations and given warnings in the other five, Chen said. Most of the punishments were handed out for failing to clearly distinguish between programs and ads, a situation regulated by Article 19 of the act.
“In our annual performance evaluation of ERA’s variety channel, we also warned them that their violations in this particular aspect were high, higher than other channels,” Chen said. “They promised to improve.”
However, ERA was fined three times after the license was renewed, in March and again in June, for not clearly distinguishing between the regular program content and commercials, he said.
Some of the criticism has focused on the legality of limiting the program rerun rate to 60 percent of the channel’s daily content. However, Chen said the channel had proposed the condition itself, the commission had not arbitrarily set a percentage.
The STBA said the commission had not followed the procedures stated in Articles 35 to 39 of the act before revoking the channel’s license, but Chen said the association had confused the regulations governing media content with those covering license renewal.
The commission applied Article 6, which specifically governs license renewal, Chen said.
Article 4 in the Enforcement Rules Governing the Satellite Broadcasting Act (衛星廣播電視法施行細則) states that the regulatory agency must evaluate the following items when reviewing the application for license renewal: execution of the operational plan and any improvement, record of violations of the act, record of infringing others’ rights by broadcasting certain programs and commercials, and the handling of disputes with subscribers.