Sat, Sep 09, 2017 - Page 3 News List

Former NCC head questions whether nation has media monopoly problem

By Shelley Shan  /  Staff reporter

Former National Communications Commission (NCC) chairperson Su Herng (蘇蘅) yesterday spoke about a draft act on media monopolization prevention, saying the fundamental question is whether the nation still has a media monopoly problem.

The proposed bill has drawn mixed reactions from media operators and experts. The most controversial clauses stipulate that a clear separation between financial institutions and the operation of media outlets be maintained, which would retroactively be applied to mergers approved by the commission since its establishment on Feb. 22, 2006.

One company that could be affected by implementation of the clause is Taiwan Mobile. Its chairman, Daniel Tsai (蔡明忠), who is also chairman of Fubon Financial Holding, purchased multiple service operator Kbro under new company Dafu Media, which he founded.

Although the acquisition was approved by the commission in 2010, it has listed several conditions that Dafu has to fulfill for the approval to be valid.

A Taiwan Mobile representative yesterday asked NCC officials at a forum if the company would encounter problems if the legislation is passed with the clause, even though it has fully complied with the commission’s conditions.

Su, who presided over the case when in office, said that maintaining a clear separation between financial institutions and the operation of media outlets was only one of many factors the commission considered in the transaction.

The biggest concern at the time was whether the deal would violate regulations banning political parties, the government and the military from investing in the media, as the government holds a stake in Fubon Financial, she said.

The public only started to become aware of the possible consequences of allowing financial institutions to purchase or operate media outlets much later, when Want Want China Times Group planned to partner with China Trust Financial Holding to purchase Next TV, she added.

The bigger argument is whether media outlet monopolization is still an issue the nation faces, Su said.

“This will have to be determined by the NCC through industry research. We should also consider the size of the market and the appropriate number of operators to ensure that they can coexist and compete healthily,” Su said.

She said she agreed with the purpose of the legislation, which aims to prevent media monopolization.

However, the key is for the government to achieve that goal in a refined and systemic manner and for all operators to have a clear path to follow, she said.

The government must also consider whether the proposed act will stimulate or suffocate the growth of the industry, she added.

Soochow University School of Law adjunct professor Chang Chun-fa (莊春發) said the nation’s banking and insurance regulations already stipulate that financial institutions are banned from participating in the operation of private companies.

Having the same principle laid out in the proposed legislation is unnecessary, he added.

However, former NCC commissioner Liu Chorng-jian (劉崇堅) said the commission must still include the clause in the bill.

Liu cited academic research on the nation’s finance industry, as well as statements by former Financial Supervisory Commission chairman Lee Ruey-tsang (李瑞倉), which indicated that Taiwan has never thoroughly implemented regulations prohibiting financial institutions or those managing them from operating private companies.

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