Academics warned of a possible “Sinicization” of Taiwanese media at a forum yesterday, saying that civil society appeared to be the last line of defense against fast-growing Chinese influence on local media.
The Chinese influence has been so intimidating that “pro-China media now have complete control of the direction of Taiwan’s national development,” said Chen Yao-hsiang (陳耀祥), an assistant professor at National Taipei University’s Department of Public Administration and Policy.
Chen was among a panel of academics who expressed concern over Taiwan’s media at a forum organized by the Taiwan Association of University Professors (TAUP).
The current situation of Taiwanese media is similar to that of Hong Kong and Macau’s media before their handover to China in the late 1990s, when Beijing bribed, sweet-talked and threatened media in the two regions to promote its propaganda and “brainwash” people, Chen said.
China is taking advantage of its state capitalist system and its fast-growing economy to achieve political gains using economic strategies, including its work on Taiwanese media, he said.
Lin Yu-huei (林育卉), an assistant professor at Hungkuang University, said the result of the Jan. 14 presidential election showed that the manner in which Taiwanese media had developed had had a substantial impact on domestic politics and could undermine Taiwan’s democracy.
Over the years, ownership of much of Taiwan’s media has been dominated by business tycoons who have large investments in China, Lin said, citing the examples of Want Want Group chairman and chief executive Tsai Eng-meng (蔡衍明), Fubon Financial chairman Daniel Tsai (蔡明忠) and HTC Corp chairwoman Cher Wang (王雪紅).
Because of the ownership changes, she said, the operational plan of those companies has changed and there has been increasing Chinese influence on news in Taiwan.
The phenomenon has been part of Beijing’s strategy to control Taiwan by non-military measures and to counter Taiwan’s democratic system. This has put Taiwan in a dire situation, said Chou Chih-hung (周志宏), a assistant professor at National Taipei University of Education.
“The main profit source for these owners is not the media company, but their other investments in China. It seems to me that the only way to counter this growing Chinese influence lies with the Taiwanese audience, either by boycotting the media outlet or their products,” Chou said.
Lin Li-yun (林麗雲), director of National Taiwan University’s School of Journalism, said that civil society should play an important role in defending the integrity of Taiwan’s journalism.
However, the government should also follow the example of the British, Japanese and South Korean governments and increase funding for public TV and broadcast systems, she said.
A strong public media system will be able to balance out the current chaotic development of private media outlets, she said.