The National Communications Commission (NCC) yesterday said it would set up a special task force to draft regulations governing cross-media ownership
The decision comes in the wake of calls by civic groups following protests that the Want Want China Times Group’s purchase of China Network Systems’ (CNS) cable television services would create a media monster. Calls for stricter regulatory action have intensified after media reports that Fubon Group, which already owns telecommunications and cable television services, intends to buy the Next Media Group — which includes the Chinese-language Apple Daily (Taiwan), Sharp Daily and Next Magazine — for NT$9.5 billion (US$316 million).
“The NCC commissioners have reached a consensus on establishing a special task force to draft regulations,” commission spokesman Wei Shyue-win (魏學文) said. “However, the commission has yet to decide if such regulations should be introduced by amending the Radio and Television Act (廣播電視法), the Satellite Broadcasting Act (衛星廣播電視法), the Cable Television Act (有線電視法) and the Telecommunications Act (電信法) or by introducing a separate anti-media monopoly act.”
Wei added that the Executive Yuan had ordered the commission to submit a second proposed amendment to the three aforementioned broadcasting acts and the Telecommunications Act before 2014, adding that the regulations on anti-media monopoly would be completed during this period as well.
As for regulations covering the print media, the commission said this used to be covered by the Publication Act (出版法), and the government agency in charge with enforcing the Act was the Government Information Office (GIO). However, the Publication Act was nullified in 1999, and the GIO is now under the administration of the Ministry of Culture, the commission said.
“The NCC only regulates the broadcast media,” Wei said. “Should cross-media regulations be made to apply to the acquisition of print media as well, such an initiative should be launched by the Executive Yuan. The amendments we proposed must be about the businesses under our supervision.”
The commission cannot comment on the alleged Fubon-Next Media deal because it does not have the authority over the purchase of print media, Wei said.
Dafu Media, which is affiliated with the Fubon Group, had secured the NCC’s approval to purchase the cable television services owned by Kbro Co in 2010. One of the promises the company made was that it would not set up television news and finance channels within three years after it obtained the approval.
While the restriction is scheduled to expire next year, Wei said this does not mean that Dafu can start forming news and finance channels next year.
“Whether it [Dafu] is able to do so depends on the results of our review,” he said. “When we review their applications [for new television channels], we could consider its influence on public opinion by taking into account the media outlets it owns.”