Rock fans, band members and their supporters yesterday filled a national forum organized by the Ministry of Culture yesterday on the development of music and the television industry, urging the ministry to take action to give a legal status to live music performance venues in Taiwan.
The forum came just four days after the closure of Underworld, a basement rock club on Taipei’s Shida Road that had been home to many indie bands and new artists for 16 years.
“We hope [the ministry] can immediately start negotiating with live house owners. Not just a few of us, but as many as possible,” Underworld shareholder Ho Tung-hung (何東洪) said. “We also want to call attention to the rising conservative force that tries to purge the area of anything it deems unsuited for a high-class neighborhood. The Shida night market won’t be the last.”
The Shidahood Self Help Association, a group of area residents, has lobbied the city government to tidy up the nearby night market since last year.
Underworld decided to close its doors after recent resident complaints and police harassment due to the lack of a clear law protecting live houses’ right to exist.
Acknowledging that live music venues were a valuable cultural asset, Taipei City Department of Cultural Affairs Commissioner Liu Wei-gong (劉維公) said the department would never allow live houses to disappear, despite the “purification” movement.
On the national level, Minister of Culture Lung Ying-tai (龍應台) promised action, but said it would take time to loosen and adjust a large number of laws and regulations at both local and national levels of governments.
“The operation of live houses involves many regulations in relation to fire codes, zoning and public hygiene,” Lung said.
“Everything has to be done according to the law. We need to pursue it for as long as it takes,” she said.
As for the nation’s television industry, Chang Cheng-fen (張正芬), vice general manager of SET-TV, said Taiwan had made fewer original productions and relied more on buying works from South Korea and China because a lack of funding and the loss of talent plaguing the industry.
“To produce a constant number of productions is important in promoting a healthy industry environment. This way, you can keep your talent, make the market bigger and export works overseas,” Chang said. “Taiwan’s television shows and dramas have great potential to make it big in the Chinese-speaking market.”
According to Chang, the total revenue for South Korean TV exports amounted to more than NT$7.5 billion (US$250.2 million) last year, compared with Taiwan’s NT$1.2 billion.
Industry professionals such as Chang and veteran television producer Hsueh Sheng-fen (薛聖棻) said one way to support the industry was to ease the regulations on product placement.
“We understand why product placements in news reporting should be strictly regulated, but in television dramas, it is a great way to promote local brands, such as HTC and Franz,” Chang added. “Money from private enterprises allows us to make better and more competitive productions.”