Want Want China Times Group Chairman Tsai Eng-meng (蔡衍明) yesterday attended a public hearing on Want Want China Broadband’s bid for cable TV services owned by China Network Systems (CNS) and said he did not take any funds from China.
Prior to the hearing, Tsai had said he would only attend it if the National Communications Commission (NCC) promised to make a decision on the deal within two weeks of the hearing.
Over the weekend, an assistant of Tsai said would not attend the hearing. Tsai said he changed his mind because he could not sleep at night and he heard that Next TV would have a live broadcast of the entire hearing.
“My shareholders did not want me to come because I am only an investor, having 50 percent of the shares in Want Want China Broadband,” Tsai said.
Tsai described the hearing as “a fight to defend his dignity” and added that he attended the meeting to have his thoughts and ideas examined by all.
“I knew before I came that 80 to 90 percent of the questions at the hearing would be directed at me,” he said. “So I propose we have a question-and-answer session, and I would answer all the questions from those who oppose or hate me and let them decide if I love Taiwan or not. Otherwise, it would be pointless for me to be here.”
NCC Chairperson Su Herng (蘇蘅), who presided over the hearing, did not grant Tsai his wish.
She said he could speak when the meeting was opened for different parties to express their opinions.
Experts opposing the deal, including Academia Sinica assistant research fellow Huang Kuo-chang (黃國昌), as well as National Taiwan University professors Ivy Chang (張錦華) and Jang Show-lin (鄭秀玲), said the commission should reject the bid immediately because it would result in a concentration of media ownership.
Chang said the Chinese--language China Times was paid to give extensive coverage of visits by Chinese officials.
Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Yeh Yi-jin (葉宜津) said she became a target of criticism on CTi TV — a TV network of the Want Want China Times Group — after she denied a special assistant dispatched by Tsai to speak at a meeting in the legislature last month.
Yeh said CTi launched a three-day intensive attack against her.
Shih Hsin University professor Kuan Shan-ren (關尚仁), who has been neutral on the issue, said it has become really difficult for him to approve the bid after he watched the midday news on CTi TV yesterday.
“I was late for the hearing this afternoon because I was monitoring the news on TV at home,” Kuan said. “It was understandable that you [CTi TV] decided to have a live broadcast of the hearing, which is newsworthy, but do you need to have pundits in the program critical of every comment at the hearing?”
“I have never taken any specific position on the case, but you did something that was -unprofessional. I do not know how I can still support you under such circumstances,” Kuan said.
Kuan asked how Want Want China Broadband intends to uphold freedom of speech after it acquires CNS and whether the company would allow channels with opposing points of view to be included in their services.
Representatives from CNS and its major investor partner, as well as the cable service industry, have urged the commission to quickly rule on the case, which has been under review for 16 months.
Tsai denied taking any money from China to purchase the media.