Sat, Mar 21, 2015 - Page 4 News List

Experts urge NCC to establish TV channel standards

INTERNATIONAL SCRUTINY:Taiwan Broadband Communications’ Kevin Lin said treating local and overseas channels differently could be a breach of WTO statutes

By Shelley Shan  /  Staff reporter

Media experts urged the government to continue including required channels in cable TV offerings, adding that it should create standards for qualifications used to determine such channels.

The National Communications Commission (NCC) has been calling for amendments to the three broadcasting acts — the Satellite Broadcasting Act (衛星廣播電視法), the Cable Radio and Television Act (有線廣播電視法) and the Radio and Television Act (廣播電視法) — for three years, but it has yet to secure the legislature’s approval, because of several controversial issues.

One issue is whether cable TV operators should continue to carry channels of the nation’s terrestrial television networks, including Taiwan Television, China Television, Formosa Television and the Taiwan Broadcasting System (TBS).

TBS is the nation’s public broadcasting group, consisting of the Chinese Television System, the Public Television Service, Hakka TV, Taiwan Indigenous TV and Taiwan Macroview Television.

Cable TV and satellite TV operators said the industry has changed so much in recent years that they should not be required to carry these channels anymore. They have only agreed to continue carrying TBS channels.

Terrestrial TV operators insisted that their channels be carried on cable programming. They said that cable TV should include at least the main channel of each network, as well as other channels in each network, depending on the results of business negotiations.

However, the NCC proposed that cable operators be asked to carry TBS channels and one commercial terrestrial TV service, adding that the selection of commercial terrestrial service would be determined through business negotiations.

National Taiwan Normal University professor Chen Ping-hung (陳炳宏) said cable TV providers get to determine the number of channels included in the service, which is not a market open for competition.

He said the frequencies used by terrestrial TV stations belong to the public, and that the government simply assigned these frequencies to be used by the operators on behalf of the public.

“The public definitely has the right to watch terrestrial TV channels, especially after the government spent so much taxpayer money digitizing the system,” he said, adding that cable operators must continue to carry these terrestrial channels.

However, he does not think all terrestrial TV channels should automatically become required channels, adding that the NCC needs to establish standards before reviewing applications to become a must-carry channel.

Consumers’ Foundation secretary-general Lu Hsin-chang (盧信昌) said that an a la carte pricing scheme for cable TV services promoted by the NCC does not really give consumers the freedom to choose the channels they prefer to watch.

Instead of advocating for the necessity of required channels, Lu said the government should enforce a real a la carte system, in which consumers only select the channels they want to see, whether they are terrestrial or cable channels.

“The only thing that can transform the broadcasting industry is consumers becoming picky [about the content they watch],” he said.

Taiwan Broadband Communications chief legal officer Kevin Lin (林志峰) said that whether cable operators should be required to carry some channels is not only a legal issue, but also a constitutional issue. He added that he had a problem with a new stipulation in one of the proposed amendments, which asks cable operators to include a Taiwanese terrestrial channel or a satellite TV channel if 70 percent of its programs are produced in high-definition signals.

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