Representatives from the telecommunication and broadcasting industries yesterday urged the government to lift a ban that prohibits investments in media outlets by political parties, the government and the military.
The comments were made at a public hearing yesterday hosted by the National Communications Commission (NCC), which is in the process of drafting a digital convergence act (數位匯流法).
Investment in media outlets by political parties, the government and the military is one of the issues to be addressed in the draft act.
Chunghwa Telecom, which owns a multimedia-on-demand system, said the ban was designed at a time when the nation had only three terrestrial television networks — Taiwan Television, China Television and Chinese Television Service. They were respectively controlled by the government, the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and the military.
“It [the ban] was meant to be a quick remedy to free the television networks, which were the main sources of information for the public, from the influence of politics and the military,” said Chung Kuo-chiang (鍾國強), senior director of Chunghwa Telecom’s legal affairs department. “Now that the drug has been proven to be an effective cure, it is time to revise the regulations.”
Cable Broadband Institute in Taiwan secretary-general Peng Shu-fen (彭淑芬) said it was fine that the ban applied to television channels, which could influence the public opinion, but it should not be applied to television program suppliers or agents for overseas television channels.
Currently, direct or indirect investment in media outlets by the government or political parties is forbidden. If any such violation is found, media outlets, rather than the investors, are liable to sanctions.
Some argued that it was unfair to punish media outlets for accepting government funding, since their shares are traded publicly and there is no way for them to know who purchases them.
The commission’s statistics showed it has fined 35 media outlets since 2010 for having shares owned by the government or political parties. Thirty-two of them won appeals.
In 2009, Elta TV was given three months to dispose of its government funding when it applied for an operating license. The case caused some to question whether a 2 percent stake was significant enough to warrant concern about control over a media outlet.
NCC operation administration department director Andy Hsieh (謝煥乾) said the controversy exposed a conflict between politics and the free market.
“There is no absolute right or wrong. We just need to know how to handle it using appropriate rules. Lifting the ban is only one option,” Hsieh said.