The National Communications Commission (NCC) yesterday approved the sale of Next TV to ERA TV chairman Lien Tai-sheng (練台生), saying that Lien had promised to stop serving as agent for two popular news channels.
Commission spokesperson Yu Hsiao-cheng (虞孝成) said the commission had reviewed Lien’s responses to the questions it had asked him, including the operation of Next TV’s ethics committee, how he would ensure Next TV and ERA TV have separate news departments and offer different programs, resolving Next TV’s personnel shortage and the guidelines to follow when handling the news of television stations.
Yu said Lien will not renew his agent contract with Formosa News channel (民視新聞台), which expires on Dec. 31 next year, and that Lien promised to try to end his contract with Sanlih News channel (三立新聞台) by the end of next year as well, adding that the issue would be resolved no later than Dec. 31, 2016.
“His contract with Sanlih was a bit complicated because it involves other channels in the network, so it might take a little longer,” Yu said.
The commission held a public hearing on the sale in July. At the time it expressed concern that the sale would increase Lien’s influence over the media market and monopolize public opinion channels.
Lien owns seven channels on the ERA TV and Next TV networks and four cable TV services on the east coast and serves as agent for 21 TV channels, Yu said.
As an agent, Lien represents the channels in negotiations with cable service operators.
Asked if Lien intends to sell Next TV to Fubon Financial Holding Co chairman Daniel Tsai (蔡明忠), Yu said the commission did not ask him that question.
The commission said last week that it had investigated reports that Fubon might purchase ERA TV and the network had denied the story.
As for Next TV’s personnel shortage, Yu said that the station’s news department has 86 employees. Because the commission had been reviewing the sale, the company was only able to hire 30 new employees through ERA TV, Yu said.
Now that the commission has approved the sale, these employees can be added to Next TV’s payroll, Yu said, adding that Next TV plans to hire 45 more employees.
Chan Yi-lien (詹懿廉), a specialist at the commission’s communication management department, said Lien has promised to keep the operations of Next TV and ERA TV separate, with the former focusing on instant news coverage and the latter on news commentary programs.
“Three multiple system operators have applied to move Next TV news from Channel 45 to Channel 49. ERA News is Channel 50,” Chan said. “They [ERA’s managers] know the adjacent channels would have to offer different content to be accepted by audiences.”