The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) yesterday said the conditional approval of a deal allowing Want Want China Times Group to acquire cable television service provider China Network Systems (CNS) was unfortunate and demanded that the government declare the deal void.
The National Communications Commission (NCC) announced on Wednesday night that the NT$76 billion (US$2.52 billion) deal had been approved with three suspension clauses and a further 25 additional clauses following a closed-door meeting with Want Want China Times Group.
The DPP caucus reiterated its opposition to the deal over fears that it could create a media monopoly and jeopardize media freedoms in Taiwan, DPP caucus chief secretary Chen Ting-fei (陳亭妃) told a press conference yesterday.
“We also call for the suspension of the licensing process,” she said.
The deal would spawn a “media monster,” Chen said, adding that the monster is already flexing its muscles as Want Want Group Chairman Tsai Eng-meng (蔡衍明) reportedly claimed that he would not sell CTiTV — listed as one of the three suspension clauses — less than 24 hours after the NCC announced the deal.
“[Tsai’s claim] was like a slap in the NCC’s face,” Chen said.
The DPP caucus also questioned the qualification of the four newly appointed NCC members, in particular incoming chairman Shih Shih-hao (石世豪), who was quoted as saying that his understanding of the three suspension clauses, and the 25 additional clauses “were different from the incumbent NCC members.”
Shih’s comments seemed to suggest that the current clauses could be renegotiated or scrapped after he took over the commission next month, Chen said.
The approval has violated the first article of the organic law of the NCC, which stated that maintaining fair media competition is one of the NCC’s core responsibilities, DPP Legislator Lee Chun-yi (李俊俋) said.
The Want Want Group’s track record of maintaining neutrality has been poor, Lee said, adding that the group had launched serial attacks on three NCC members who were against the deal with its newspaper and TV news channels.
The same practice re-emerged yesterday, Lee added, with the Chinese-language newspaper China Times dedicating a whole page to criticize Huang Kuo-chang (黃國昌), a research fellow at Academia Sinica who was a strong and vocal opponent of the deal.
“Tsai’s backtracking of the agreement was an insult to the NCC as well as the final straw for the commission’s credibility,” DPP spokesperson Wang Min-sheng (王閔生) told a separate press conference.
The deal looked like a complete setback for the NCC in the battle for media freedom against media tycoons and political interference, Wang said.
The DPP urged President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) to publicly express his position on the deal and to confirm the four NCC members, he said, adding that the president should also demand full disclosure of the meeting between the NCC and Tsai.