Wed, Sep 07, 2011 - Page 2 News List

Experts call for a careful review of Want Want bid

MEDIA CONCENTRATION:Experts cautioned that allowing Want Want Group to acquire China Network Systems would extend its grip on the media industry

By Shelley Shan  /  Staff Reporter

Media experts yesterday urged the National Communications Commission (NCC) not to give Want Want China Broadband a quick pass in its bid to acquire cable TV systems from China Network Systems (CNS), cautioning that the deal could give rise to a “gigantic dinosaur.”

National Taiwan University (NTU) associate professor Hung Chen-ling (洪貞玲) told a public hearing that the commission should not approve the deal until concerns over media concentration were addressed.

Using the News International phone hacking scandal as an example, Hung said both ruling and opposition parties in the US now oppose any move by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp to acquire any media outlets because they have seen how media can manipulate public opinion and damage democracy.

“TV channels owned by the Want Want Group have [viewership] ratings of more than 20 percent and the group also owns about 10 percent of all channels in Taiwan,” Hung said. “Given the group’s behavior in the past two years — accusing NCC commissioners of abusing their rights in its newspapers and suing reporters — doubts [about the group] have yet to diminish.”

Hung asked the commission to bar Want Want from operating news channels if the acquisition were approved.

Chinese Culture University associate professor Ke Shun-chih (柯舜智) referred to a letter to the editor published in the Chinese-language Apple Daily yesterday by two NTU professors.

She said the writers had adopted a method used by the German Commission on Concentration in the Media (KEK) and used statistics collected from AC Nielsen to calculate media influence.

Germany sees any KEK value exceeding 30 as “high media concentration,” she said.

The researchers found that Want Want Group would have a KEK value of up to 140 if it were to gain access to the cable TV system, she said.

Want Want Group chairman Tsai Eng-ming (蔡衍明) has described himself as a Taiwanese businessman returning to his homeland like a “salmon swimming back to its natal stream to spawn,” Ke said, adding that the salmon could very well turn into a “gigantic dinosaur” if the group were further allowed to produce content and own the platforms to broadcast them.

Jinwen University of Science and Technology professor Chang Chun-fa (莊春發) disagreed, saying that based on his research, Want Want Group accounted for only about 10 percent of the news media market, which he said was an indication of low media concentration.

Commission officials also took turns asking Want Want China Broadband chairman Tsai Shao-chung (蔡紹中) — Tsai Eng-ming’s son — questions, such as whether they would include different types of channels in its lineup without any discrimination based on business interests, whether they would lower service subscription fees and how they would address concerns over media concentration.

Tsai Shao-chung said cable TV systems could only become competitive if content was diversified.

He did not say whether the group would lower subscription fees and only said the fee charged by CNS was already lower than the national average.

However, the group is considering lowering cable modem service fees by 15 to 20 percent to compete with Chunghwa Telecom, he said.

Tsai Shao-chung said he would step down as chairman of CTiTV if the deal is approved and would not set up new TV channels without the commission’s approval, nor would it team up with competitors to monopolize the market.

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