National Communications Commission Chairperson Su Herng (蘇蘅) yesterday said the resignation of two commissioners was unrelated to the bid by Want Want China Broadband for cable TV services owned by China Network Systems (CNS), adding that the commissioners did not plan to suspend the review of the bid.
“Commissioner Chang Shi-chung (張時中) took a two-year leave of absence from National Taiwan University and wanted to return to teaching,” Su said. “Wei Shyue-win (魏學文) resigned for health reasons. He has indicated that he would be willing to return once he recovers from surgery. Their resignations have nothing to with the CNS case.”
Chang and Wei are two of the four commissioners who will review the CNS deal. Three other commissioners have withdrawn from the case.
Su was scheduled to appear before the legislature’s Transportation Committee yesterday to brief lawmakers on the principles governing the review of cross-media acquisitions. However, lawmakers chose to focus on the CNS deal.
Despite an official invitation, Want Want Group chairman Tsai Eng-meng (蔡衍明) did not attend the meeting. Instead, he sent his special assistant, Chao Yu-pei (趙育培), to represent him.
Committee convener, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Yeh Yi-jin (葉宜津), denied Chao the right to speak on behalf of Tsai.
“The committee extended a formal invitation to Mr Tsai,” Yeh said. “If he was unable to come, all he had to do was send us an official notification and inform us who would represent him. [Chao] cannot just show up and claim he speaks for Tsai,” she said.
Following the decision, Chao left the meeting in protest.
Although the committee had asked all seven NCC commissioners to attend the meeting, only Su showed up.
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Lee Hung-chun (李鴻鈞) said the absence of the six other commissioners showed their contempt for the legislature, adding that they should be all censured by the Control Yuan.
Lee asked why only experts who opposed the deal were invited to attend the meeting.
“The legislature cannot listen to just one voice,” he said. “These cable TV services used to be owned by foreign investors, who did almost nothing to improve the nation’s digital cable TV service penetration rate. We did not see you [experts] show such concern about the fact that our cable systems were controlled by foreigners then.”
Lee then turned to an ongoing battle of words between the China Times and Next Media’s Apple Daily, in which each has published lengthy reports critical of the other over the CNS deal, saying they were fighting for their survival.
Lee asked the commission to follow the law and rule on the case as soon as possible as it had been reviewing the case for almost 18 months.
Su said the battle between the two newspapers showed the “degradation of the media.”
She said the commission spent a long time deliberating because the CNS bid was worth about NT$70 billion (US$2.37 billion).
The London-based Financial Times has called it “the biggest cable TV deal in Asia since 2006.”
“It is important that we consider all the facts about the bid, confirm they are accurate and make sure that the ruling fulfills the public interest,” Su said.
Democratic Progressive Party legislators Liu Chao-hao (劉櫂豪) and Tsai Chi-chang (蔡其昌) urged the commission to suspend its review of the bid.