The National Communications Commission yesterday denied that the proposed media monopolization prevention and diversity preservation act (媒體壟斷防制與多元維護法草案) would expand its power by authorizing it to impose new punitive measures or launch administrative interventions in the operation of media outlets.
The commission issued an official statement in English about the act, which gained preliminary approval at the legislature’s Transportation Committee at the end of last month, after some media outlets alleged that the act would extend the commission’s authority by including oversight over the print media, which the commission currently does not have the authority to regulate.
They also alleged that requiring media outlets to issue a correction if a person deems his or her reputation has been damaged by false reports or commentaries would be tantamount to reinstituting the Publication Act (出版法), under which freedom of the press was strictly censored by the government.
Those accusations were subsequently picked up by the foreign press.
“If the draft bill is enacted, its [the commission’s] power will not increase. Neither are there new punitive measures nor provisions for administrative interventions in the bill,” the commission said.
The commission added that current laws, including the Civil Code, have similar requirements in cases where media reports may have infringed on a person’s right. The Council of Grand Justices has also deemed the requirements to be in line with the Constitution.
According to the commission, the proposed act aims to fulfill an individual’s right of access to the media as stated in the Constitution, but it did not add new restrictions into the bill.
“The right of the stakeholders to make corrections or reply, as stipulated in the draft bill, is aimed at protecting the rights of the public,” the commission said.
Media conglomerates might simultaneously own print and broadcasting media in the era of digital convergence. However, the print media exercise an even stronger influence over topics of public concern and, as such, the obligation to make corrections should not be limited to broadcasters, it said.
As stated in the Council of Grand Justices’ Interpretation No. 364, the public may demand page space or broadcast time from the mass media. In the same manner, a person is entitled to demand that the media issue a correction if a false report or commentary infringed on the person’s rights, the commission said.
Aside from the Constitution, the commission said that similar articles protecting individuals’ rights of access to media are listed in the Meteorological Act (氣象法), the Mental Health Act (精神衛生法), the Communicable Disease Control Act (傳染病防治法) and the Crime Victim Protection Act (犯罪被害人保護法) — and they apply to both the print and broadcast media, it said.
None of those articles has led to any chilling effect on the media, the commission said.
Moreover, such a rule also applies in developed countries, it said, adding that the EU directives require that new members of the union should enact and implement these regulations.