Employees from the nation’s two largest TV shopping networks yesterday lodged a protest with the National Communications Commission (NCC), calling on the media regulator to properly review the application from multiple service operator Kbro Co to replace the TV shopping channels.
Kbro had applied to replace the channels of Eastern Home Shopping and Leisure Co (EHS, 東森得易購) with those of U-Life (森森百貨), but NCC approval is necessary for the deal to go ahead.
Representatives from U-Life and EHS both submitted petitions to the NCC as the commission was scheduled to continue its review of Kbro’s application yesterday morning.
Wearing face masks, 60 U-Life employees held up placards demanding that the NCC refuse to hand out special favor or preferential treatment to EHS.
The NCC’s failure to exercise its administrative authority to review the case was an indication of administrative discretion, U-Life said.
U-Life general manager Li Deng-ke (李登科) said the Fair Trade Commission and consumer protection bureaus in eight local governments had all said that Kbro’s application to replace EHS with U-Life was a business transaction and did not violate the Fair Trade Act (公平交易法) or any related regulations. However, the NCC has delayed its ruling on the case.
“Over the past seven months, EHS has not had a contract with Kbro and not paid any channel rental fee,” Li said. “U-Life has a contract and is obligated to pay a daily rental fee of NT$1 million in rent to Kbro. As a result, accumulated financial losses have topped NT$200 million (US$6.7 million), which threatens the jobs of 800 U-Life employees.”
U-Life also said that the NCC spent only 20 days reviewing the application of the earlier MSO Taiwan Broadband Communication (TBC) proposal to replace U-Life with EHS, but had taken 104 days to review Kbro’s application to replace EHS with U-Life and still had not made a decision.
EHS representative Chang Chi-hua (張起華) said the company had yet to receive any official response from local consumer protection bureaus, adding that the NCC’s -ruling would affect EHS’ operations.
Meanwhile, Kbro chairman James Cheng (鄭俊卿) briefed the NCC yesterday on how the company would handle the change in channel lineup and protect consumer interests.
NCC acting spokesperson Wong Po-tsung (翁柏宗) said the commission had decided to review the case at a later date, because commissioners had asked for more information from Kbro on how it would ensure any change in channel lineup was handled fairly.
NCC member Huang Chin-yi (黃金益) said he did not think the case could reasonably be compared to that of TBC.
Kbro filed the application to change the channel lineup after the commission reviewed the cable service’s monthly subscription fee and the number of channels included in the service, the former being dependant on the latter.
The proposed change filed by Kbro, including the home shopping channels and others, accounts for 22 percent of the channels included in its cable service.
TBC has about 690,000 subscribers, whereas Kbro has 1.1 million subscribers, Huang said.