Former National Communications Commission (NCC) officials have proposed that the nation establish a committee to regulate cross-media ownership, adding that audience share should be used to calculate the public influence of media outlets.
The proposal was presented on Friday by Lin Huei-ling (林惠玲), dean of the College of Social Sciences at National Taiwan University, and National Tsing Hua University associate professor Weng Hsiao-ling (翁曉玲) at a presentation hosted by National Taiwan University’s Center for Public Policy and Law.
The center’s chief executive, Chen Jeng-chang (陳正倉), and Weng formerly served as NCC vice chairperson and commissioner respectively.
The proposal was unveiled after the commission sent the latest draft of the broadcast media monopolization prevention and diversity preservation act (廣播電視壟斷防制與多元維護法) to the Executive Yuan for review last month.
Unlike the draft act proposed by the commission, which has 51 articles, the one proposed by Weng has just 24 articles. In addition, the Weng’s proposal suggests that a committee be established under the Executive Yuan to review for media acquisition applications.
The committee could include representatives from the NCC, the Fair Trade Commission and the Ministry of Economic Affairs, as well as civic and media watchdog groups, media associations and legal or media experts.
Rather than using viewership to gauge the influence of a TV channel, under the model proposed by the former NCC officials, audience share would instead be used.
To calculate a television channel’s audience share, its annual average viewership rate is calculated by dividing its number of subscribers by the total population of the nation. The channel’s viewership rate would then be divided by the aggregate viewership rates of all channels to give the audience share of a certain channel.
“If you only look at viewership, the proportion would be too small to accurately guage a TV channel’s actual influence,” Weng said. “Looking at audience share would allow us to see the real influence of a TV channel.”
If implemented, the regulations proposed by the former NCC officials would regulate mergers involving national daily newspapers, terrestrial television services, national radio broadcasting services, satellite television channels, cable television operators and agents of television channels.
The proposed regulations would cover both cross-media mergers, such as one between a daily newspaper and a television channel, as well as those between similar media outlets, between two TV channels. The rules would also regulate media acquisitions if a non-media business proposed to buy media outlets.
Weng said their regulations would follow what they termed a “220 principle” in regulating cross-media ownership.
According to this principle any cross-media merger that would give any media outlet a 20 percent or greater market share in any two of the three markets that have the greatest influence on public opinion; national daily newspapers, cable television services and television channels, would be blocked.
If a business has an annual revenue of NT$10 billion (US$335.8 million) or has a dominant position in a certain industry, any media acquisitions would need approval from administrative authorities, she said.
Chen said the center had not received government funding for its proposal, adding that any political party is welcome to refer to the center’s proposals when reviewing the NCC’s draft media act.