National Communications Commission Chairperson Su Herng (蘇蘅) yesterday said the commission did not delay or deliberately suspend the review of Want Want China Broadband’s acquisition of the cable TV services owned by China Network System (CNS), adding that the ruling was made when the commission felt the time was right.
Su made the comments after presiding over her last meeting at the commission, as she steps down tomorrow.
During the meeting, Su and three other commissioners confirmed the records of the meeting held on Wednesday last week, when they issued the ruling on the Want Want-CNS deal.
The ruling included three main conditions and 25 other stipulations that Want Want is required to follow. For the ruling to take effect, Want Want must fulfill all three conditions: Tsai and his family members must disassociate themselves from the operation the CtiTV news channel; China Television’s (CTV) digital news channel must be changed to make it a non-news channel; and CTV must have an independent editorial office.
Want Want has agreed to adhere to the 25 commitments, including spending NT$8.3 billion (US$276 million) to increase the penetration rate of the digital cable service to 100 percent. However, it had indicated that it did not agree to those three conditions and had problem abiding by them.
The commission had deliberated the case for 18 months.
Su said the commission was set to issue the ruling on the case after it had held the public hearing over the case in May, adding that similar cases in other countries, such as the merger of Comcast and NBC Universal in the US, had required about the same amount of time.
While many have compared the case with Dafu Media’s purchase of cable services owned by Kbro, Su emphasized that the commission had also spent about 15 months reviewing Dafu-Kbro case.
She said the Want Want-CNS deal was very complicated and the commission has asked the company to provide a lot of information. Some commissioners even had to calculate Want Want’s influence using statistical models, she said.
Another factor affecting the review, she said, was the health problems of commissioner Wei Shyue-win (魏學文). With three other commissioners withdrawing from the review of the case, the commission could not start reviewing the deal until Wei returned, she said.
Meanwhile, the commission also spent a substantial amount of time consulting governmental agencies on several issues related to the cases, particularly those involving the regulations banning political parties, government and the military from running the media, Su said.
The new commissioners will determine if the group has kept to the conditions.
Counselor Huang Chin-yi (黃金益) said the cable TV service operators can decide which channels are included in the services they offer, which could indirectly affect the type of information that consumers could receive. The same right also allows cable operators to control channel operators, he said.
“So [the commission considered] it is inappropriate that those with a large market share in the cable TV market to possess or control the news channel, which shapes public opinion,” Huang said.
Commission data show the Want Want China Times Group owns 11.87 percent of the newspaper industry, 5.05 percent of the magazine market, 11.73 percent of the news Web site services, 22.05 percent of news channel services, 19.07 percent of the terrestrial TV services and 21.58 percent of satellite channels.