National Communications Commission Chairperson Su Herng (蘇蘅) yesterday warned that too many restrictions on the cable TV industry would undermine competitiveness, adding that legislation regulating media ownership must have well-rounded complementary measures.
Su made the statement during a review of amendments to the Satellite Broadcasting Act (衛星廣播電視法), the Cable Radio and Television Act (有線廣播電視法) and the Radio and Television Act (廣播電視法) at the legislature’s Transportation Committee.
However, several legislators felt strongly about the regulations on media ownership in the Cable Radio and Television Act, in light of Want Want China Times Group’s controversial bid for cable TV stations owned by China Network Systems (CNS), and proposed their own amendments for consideration.
The Want Want-CNS deal would merge one of the nation’s most influential media groups with the nation’s second-largest multiple service operator. The deal has yet to be approved by the commission.
Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Yeh Yi-jin (葉宜津), who presided over the meeting, ruled to reserve the amendments on media ownership for bipartisan negotiations due to the unresolved controversies.
Su said media ownership is a very complicated issue and involves more than one law.
She said the most important thing was that the government implement complementary measures when enacting any regulations.
“Whether we decide to restrict or loosen regulations [on media ownership], we have to consider if it helps or hinders the development of the industry,” Su said. “We also need to consider whether a balance can be reached between the law and industry development, and whether that balance would be in the public’s interest.”
Su said competition had already shifted from between cable service providers to between cable service providers and telecom carriers.
She said the number of subscribers to Chunghwa Telecom’s multimedia on demand (MOD) service had reached 1.16 million, about one-sixth of the total cable subscribers in Taiwan.
Not only is MOD not regulated by the Cable Radio and Television Act, it is not required to cap the number of its subscribers at one-third of the national total as the cable television service provider.
“We need to think clearly about whether we want cable service providers to be able to compete with one another, or whether we want to allow the cable service market to be devoured by telecom carriers.”
DPP Legislator Kuan Bi-ling (管碧玲) said Germany had stricter regulations on media ownership. For example, if a corporation owns media outlets that could dominate the market, or have a reputation that could help the corporation influence one-third of the nation’s viewing households, that corporation should be banned from buying more television channels, she said.
“The amendment I propose would ensure that the minority’s access to the media is protected from the influence of capitalism,” Kuan said.
Su said advanced countries like the UK or Germany use more than one law or article to regulate media ownership.
“There are about 10 articles regulating media ownership in the UK, which are stated in three separate laws,” Su said. “While Germany has the article in the Interstate Broadcasting Agreement cited by Kuan, it was preceded by three other articles detailing the power of opinions generated by cross-media ownership.”