The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) yesterday urged the National Communications Commission (NCC) to block Want Want China Times Group’s attempt to acquire China Network Systems (CNS) as the committee convenes this week to screen the deal.
“The DPP urges the National Communications Commission to block the highly controversial deal, which, if approved, would create an inter-media monopoly that threatens freedom of speech in Taiwan,” DPP spokesperson Lo Chih-cheng (羅致政) said in a press release.
The NT$76 billion (US$2.57 billion) merger deal would affect 1.18 million households, or about a quarter of households with a TV nationwide. That is why the DPP and various watchdog groups have been keeping an eye on the case, Lo said.
CNS is one of the nation’s largest multiple system operators and has 11 cable TV services under its wing.
The DPP is concerned about the rights of cable TV viewers, about 80 percent of whom are forced to accept a flat rate fee, as well as dull and poor programming without the freedom of choice over their cable service provider, he said.
“We think the government should not just sit idly by and watch the monopolization of media market,” he said.
More than 800 academics and almost 100 civic groups voiced their opposition to the deal last year and three members with expertise in mass communications, law and economics left the commission, leaving only four members with telecommunications know-how to decide the case, Lo said.
Academics opposed to the deal fear that with a large proportion of Want Want Group chairman Tsai Eng-ming’s (蔡衍明) profits being made in China, there is reason to suspect that the group would prioritize programming favorable to the Chinese government.
The DPP said it would attempt to uphold the public interest and freedom of speech by asking its legislative caucus to monitor the development of the case in the legislature.
“We advise President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) against turning a blind eye to the deal and jeopardizing the long-term development of Taiwanese media,” Lo said.
The DPP believes that cable TV services should undergo a shakeup, he said, as the government should ensure TV viewers pay fair fees and have freedom of choice of which TV programs and channels they watch by demanding service providers provide digital services within three years and by establishing a sound mechanism for license screening.