Lawmakers on the Transportation Committee yesterday lashed out at National Communications Commission (NCC) Chairperson Howard Shyr (石世豪) over his reluctance to commit to a formulation of a specific law regulating media monopolies.
Shyr was invited to brief the committee about the progress made to stipulate the laws regulating media monopolies, which became a hot-button issue following the anti-media monopoly protests earlier this month.
Shyr said the commission had completed initial amendments to the Radio and Television Act (廣播電視法), the Cable Television Act (有線電視法) and the Satellite Broadcasting Act (衛星廣播電視法) — known as the three broadcasting laws — as well as the Telecommunication Act (電信法) in June.
He said the commission is now charged by the Executive Yuan to complete a second amendment of the three broadcasting laws and Telecommunication Act by June 2014, which must be able to cope with the rising challenges of an age of digital convergence.
Lawmakers were not impressed by Shyr’s presentation.
Democratic Progressive Party lawmakers Tsai Chi-chang (蔡奇昌), Liu Chao-hao (劉櫂豪) and Yeh Yi-jin (葉宜津) asked if Shyr favored stipulating a specific law regulating media monopoly or if he supported adding articles regulating media monopoly to the existing laws.
Shyr said both legislative methods have advantages and disadvantages, without saying which one he would choose. His noncommittal attitude caused Yeh to accuse him of being “the sleaziest NCC chairperson” in the nation’s history.
Shyr said the legislators had included anti-media monopoly articles in their initial amendment of three media laws, which passed the first reading at the Transportation Committee. These articles could be quickly used to regulate media monopoly once they pass the third reading at the legislature, he said, adding the only drawback was that they could only regulate monopoly among broadcast media, not the print media.
“The commission’s preliminary consensus on this issue was that laws regulating media monopoly should be incorporated into the second amendment of three media laws and Telecommunication Act,” he said. “Stipulating a specific anti-media monopoly act would require a much longer time to complete because it would need negotiations among the different government departments and because it would regulate the press as well.”
The commission only regulates broadcast media and telecoms carriers. There has not been an administrative agency in charge of regulating the press since the Publication Act (出版法) was annulled in 1999.
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Lee Hung-chun (李鴻鈞) said the Executive Yuan should form a cross-departmental taskforce to stipulate an anti-media monopoly act, which should regulate the purchase of the press as well. He said the commission should not simply adopt standards from other countries to calculate media concentration.
While the anti-media monopoly act should be used to regulate the buyers in the merger deals, Lee said it should be able to regulate sellers as well.
KMT Legislator Yang Li-huan (楊麗環) said that while the anti-media monopoly act was drafted to prevent certain media outlets from dominating public opinion, the commission should be careful in stipulating the act in ways that could undermine the development of the media industry.
DPP Legislators Lee Kun-tse (李昆澤) and Kuan Bi-ling (管碧玲) and KMT Legislator Luo Shu-lei (羅淑蕾) said that Want Want China Times Group was doing everything it could do to purchase cable TV services because they are highly profitable businesses, with the gross profit margin reaching 44 percent. The legislators accused the commission of boosting the value of cable services because it has capped the service charge at NT$600 per month, allowing customers to be overcharged.