Liberty Times (LT): The NCC’s position as an independent agency has raised public concerns and even been described by some as being “degenerative.” What are the predicaments and difficulties the NCC often encounters because of its role as an independent arm?
Weng Hsiao-ling (翁曉玲): As an academic who specializes in legal matters, I have a strong feeling [about this issue].
Initially, the NCC was mandated to be an independent agency in a lofty bid to block it from external pressures from industry sectors or intervention by superior agencies.
Nevertheless, over the past four years, the way the commission has operated, along with growing political interference and power struggles within the regulatory arm, it has gradually deviated from its role as an independent department and moved instead toward being an “administrative agency.”
In all of the democratic and developing member states of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development [OECD], any administrative discipline and case rulings made by their independent agencies are directly reviewed by the courts and are exempt from deliberation by administrative authorities.
In contrast, Taiwan’s Executive Yuan still possess a veto [over the commission’s administrative decisions], as the government has yet to put forward an amendment to the National Communications Commission Organization Act (國家通訊傳播組織法) to remove the commission’s rulings from administrative deliberation, making it a less-than independent agency.
Aside from this, the NCC has very little autonomy in its personnel and budget arrangements, in particular after [an amendment to the NCC Organization Act last year] that saw its chairman directly appointed by the premier instead of being elected by commissioners [as it had been].
The commission had in the past been under the shadow of “superior arrangement” and [the recently adopted direct-appointment mechanism] now allows administrative agencies to directly “intervene in and direct” the NCC.
LT: Could the direct-appointment system be of any help [to the NCC]? Could it help solve its problems?
Chung Chi-hui (鍾起惠): The seven NCC members were at odds over the system change at the time, with the three of us speaking out against it and jointly issuing a dissenting opinion on the matter.
The original purpose of founding the NCC was to enact changes and move away from the previous totalitarian period, when the [now-defunct] Directorate-General of Telecommunications took charge of [the country’s] mass media and the [now-dissolved] Government Information Office monitored its content [for publication] to reinforce the constitutional protection of freedom of the press, and to reduce government interference, through a colleague system under which specialized commissioners were in charge of reaching policy conclusions or making case rulings.
However, having the Executive Yuan directly appoint a chairperson to head the NCC poses great difficulties for the regulatory arm to ever maintain its role as independent agency.
Chen Jeng-chang (陳正倉): For the NCC to maintain its independence in the long run, it relies solely on whether its members could prevent the “black hands” of high-ranking administrative officials, withstand political pressure from legislators and resist external pressures and temptations from the industry.