The National Communications Commission (NCC) yesterday said it would hold another public hearing early next month on a controversial bid by Want Want China Broadband to acquire 11 cable television services owned by China Network Systems (CNS), adding that Want Want Holdings chairman Tsai Eng-meng (蔡衍明) would be invited to attend the hearing.
The commission has already held two hearings — one administrative and one public — on the controversial bid.
“Based on the information we have gathered, Mr Tsai is one of the investors in the deal,” the commission’s Legal Affairs Department Director Kao Fu-yao (高福堯) said. “So the commissioners have decided to invite him to attend the hearing as a stakeholder.”
Asked why the commission decided to hold a public hearing rather than an administrative hearing, as requested by the media and legal experts, Kao said the commissioners wanted to hear all opinions from different parties.
Under the Administrative Procedure Act (行政程序法), the commission is required to follow specific procedures when holding an administrative hearing, including invitations to concerned parties to attend such hearings. If the main parties involved in the case are dissatisfied with the ruling made after an administrative hearing and they want to institute an administrative remedial proceeding, they are not required to file any administrative appeals first and can take the case directly to the administrative court.
Kao said a public hearing was not required by law, but was nevertheless an important channel for the commission to gather all the relevant information on the case.
“All the evidence produced at public meetings will be carefully reviewed by the commissioners,” Kao said.
Want Want China Broadband is affiliated with Want Want China Times Group. The company’s bid for 11 cable TV services owned by CNS, which was approved by the Fair Trade Commission last year, has drawn substantial attention because it involves a merger of a media conglomerate and the nation’s second-largest multiple-system operator.
The deal has also generated concerns from experts that it would lead to a concentration of media ownership.
The controversial deal will only be reviewed by four of the seven NCC commissioners: NCC Chairperson Su Herng (蘇蘅) and commissioners Liu Chorng-jian (劉崇堅), Chang Shi-chung (張時中) and Wei Shyue-win (魏學文).
Three other commissioners — NCC spokesperson Chen Jeng-chang (陳正倉), Weng Hsiao-ling (翁曉玲) and Chung Chi-hui (鍾起惠) — withdrew from the review after Want Want China Times Group posted their pictures in its Chinese-language China Times daily and accused them of giving the group a hard time when the commission reviewed a deal in which Want Want Holdings purchased the China Times in 2008.
Assigned as spokesperson for the case, Kao said he was not authorized to comment or disclose details of the review, nor would he comment on speculation that the commission was likely to approve the merger next month.
The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) yesterday continued to attack the bid over its impact on media monopolization and freedom of expression.
“The DPP is very concerned about the deal. We insist on the protection of freedom of speech in Taiwan and we oppose a potential media monopoly,” DPP spokesperson Lin Yu-chang (林右昌) said in a statement.
The NT$76 billion (US$2.57 billion) merger should not be hastily approved, as it would affect 1.18 million households, or about a quarter of households with a TV nationwide, Lin said.