Tue, Dec 04, 2012 - Page 3 News List

ANALYSIS: Experts urge authorities to consider public interest in media deal review

By Shelley Shan  /  Staff reporter

National Chung Cheng University communications professor Lo Shih-hung (羅世宏) said that how the FTC defines the market affected by the deal would be key to its review.

The Fair Trade Act, he said, requires investors to report the merger to the authorities in advance if the merger would allow an enterprise to control one third of the market share.

“If [the FTC] only considers the print media, the merger of the Apple Daily [Taiwan] and China Times would account for more than 50 percent of the market,” Lo said.

“If they consider the television and print media markets, the market share of two newspapers would be lower,” he added.

Experts familiar with the operations of the FTC also told the Taipei Times that media concentration and its potential influence on public opinion “would not be an issue” if the FTC’s definition of the “media market” includes television, radio, print and online media.

Lo said that the deal could affect the interests of advertisers because it would enable the group to control advertising exposure with its access to two of the nation’s major newspapers.

Even if the NCC does not regulate print media, and Tsai does not hold any share in Next TV, Lo said that the NCC must still investigate whether the Want Want China Times Group has absolutely no affiliation with the television network, both editorially and financially.

“In Taiwan, television channels often pick up on news published in newspapers,” Lo said. “The Apple Daily and Next Magazine are not unimportant media outlets, and they can influence not only Next TV, but other television stations as well. Tsai may not hold any share in Next TV, but he indirectly influences television news through the control of these two popular publications,” Lo said, adding that Want Want China Times Group must prove that Tsai will not interfere in Next TV’s editorial and financial departments.

National Chengchi University professor Liu Chang-de (劉昌德) said that the focus of the review should be on preserving the diversity of public opinion.

“Opposing media monopolies does not necessarily mean that we are for free competition,” Liu said. “The result of free competition could be that consumers would not hear dissenting opinions and continue receiving shallow content.”

Liu said that the nation must implement a system to check and balance the power of consortiums, such as establishing stricter mechanisms to examine media mergers, asking media owners to stipulate their editorial guidelines and encouraging them to offer funding to reward extraordinary journalists.

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