The heads of 10 journalism and communication schools nationwide yesterday issued a statement opposing a bid by Want Want Broadband to acquire the the cable TV systems owned by China Network Systems (CNS).
The statement is expected to be the focus of discussions at the legislature’s Transportation Committee meeting today, when lawmakers review four nominations for commissioner of the National Communications Commission.
The Want Want-CNS deal involves the merger of a media conglomerate owning newspapers, magazines and TV networks with the nation’s second-largest multiple service operator (MSO).
The commission has yet to approve the merger, which it has been reviewing for 16 months.
Three of the department chairs — Lin Yuan-huei (林元輝), chair of the department of journalism at National Chengchi University; Lin Lih-yun (林麗雲), director of the Graduate Institute of Journalism at National Taiwan University; and Hu Guang-shiash (胡光夏), chair of the department of journalism at Shih Hsin University — yesterday attended a press conference called by Taiwan Media Watch board director Lin Fu-yueh (林福岳). Want Want China Broadband was represented by special assistant to its chairman, Chao Yu-pei (趙育培).
Lin Fu-yueh said that the group of journalism department directors do not want a media group to monopolize public opinion in Taiwan.
“We reviewed the performance of the Want Want China Times Group over the past year or so and feel the group is not qualified to manage media,” they said. “We are thus strongly against allowing such a group to manage even more media.”
The experts also listed several actions taken by the group that they said were unprofessional and failed to live to up to its corporate responsibility, including allowing the Chinese government to buy news coverage at the Chinese-language daily China Times and lashing out at individuals and groups with opposing views.
In response, Chao said Want Want China Broadband and Want Want China Times Group were different companies, adding that the former was prepared to make 29 commitments if the Want Want-CNS deal were approved.
He said the China Times was fined NT$1.8 million (US$61,000) for allowing embedded marketing by the Chinese government, and added that Want Want China Broadband would have an internal review on all aspects of marketing.
Chao said the company would not give preferential treatment to channels from the Want Want China Times Group, adding that media controlled by the group represented only one of many different voices in Taiwan and it is unlikely that the deal would monopolize opinions.
“We welcome specific examples about how stories in the China Times betrayed the faith of Taiwanese, not abstract thoughts and observations,” Chao said.
Lin Fu-yueh said he had read the list of commitments and doubted the company had the ability to keep them.
“If Want Want China Broadband and the Want Want China Times Group are indeed unrelated, I could not help but ask why the latter defended the former by devoting an entire page at the China Times to the coverage of a public hearing on the deal,” he said. “Would you do the same if it was another group that wanted to purchase the CNS? Would you give favorable coverage to that group, too?”
Lin Lih-yun quoted Want Want chairman Tsai Eng-meng (蔡衍明), who said at the public hearing earlier this month that he did not know what was wrong with getting paid by the Chinese government to write news for them.